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Volume 24 No. 160

Leagues Governing Bodies

     The Indians' Albert Belle met with AL President Gene Budig
yesterday for questioning on his recent incident with SI
photographer Tony Tomsic.  Phyllis Merhige, AL VP/Media Affairs,
said they would have no comment until the situation is resolved,
adding, "I can't confirm or deny that there was a meeting."  But
MLBPA officials confirmed the meeting.  Indians Manager Mike
Hargrove admitted the image of his team "seems to be taking a
beating" because of Belle's problems with media and fans.
Hargrove: "It's regretful if the image of the club is hurt.  I'm
very sorry for that, but this is not a bad team. ... If
baseball's success depends on one player, the game is in more
trouble than any of us realize" (Sheldon Ocker, Akron BEACON
JOURNAL. 4/25).
     FUNNY GUY:  Sheldon Ocker of the BEACON JOURNAL notes that
Belle has "not lost his charm" in the wake of the latest
incident.  Reporter Kelly O'Neal and an ESPN crew approached
Belle as he stood on the sidewalk in front of the AL office on
Park Ave.  O'Neal stuck out her hand to make an introduction and
Belle responded, "You're not supposed to touch me, dear."  Ocker:
"End of introduction.  End of attempted interview" (Akron BEACON
JOURNAL, 4/25).

     A U.S. House Subcommittee is set to discuss the issue of
"franchise free agency" today and whether the NFL should be
granted an antitrust exemption in order to better control the
movement of its teams ("SportsView," CNBC, 4/24).... Francois
Botha has lost his federal appeal of a lower court decision
stripping him of his IBF Heavyweight Championship for testing
positive for steroids -- which means there are "no more hurdles"
blocking a Michael Moorer-Axel Schultz title fight June 22 in
Germany ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 4/24).

     The NBA Board of Governors approved the concept of the
Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) to begin play as a
summer league in '97.  NBA Commissioner David Stern called
approval a "first step" in an ongoing process, while adding the
league's "greatest chance for success" is in the summer when
arena availability and TV time are most abundant.  Stern also
said the new league is "dependent upon cable and over-the-air
network arrangements."  The number of teams, cities, and TV
arrangements are likely to be announced in early July (NBA).  The
league would have a 25-30 game schedule from mid-to-late June
through August.  Players would "be encouraged" to play in
European or South American leagues during the regular winter
season, "opening the door for marketing of WNBA merchandise
abroad."  A TV deal "would not be limited" to current partners
NBC and TBS, and Stern said the TV response has "been
gratifying."  Player compensation has not been set.  The league
would draw on college stars and women who play overseas, who
would be assigned "on the basis of geographical consideration, as
well as through the draft."  At the Governors meeting, "many NBA
owners lobbied to have teams among the first eight" (Cawthon &
Greenberg, PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 4/25).  ESPN noted teams are
expected to be placed in cities which already have NBA franchises
("SportsCenter," ESPN, 4/24).  USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand notes
the NBA would own all the teams, perhaps as many as eight.  NBA
VP Val Ackerman, who has been overseeing the league's effort at
marketing the U.S. Women's National Team, said the WNBA won't
distract college programs by tempting undergrads to turn pro
early.  Ackerman:  "There'll be restrictions" (USA TODAY, 4/25).
     RIVAL PIONEER:  The WNBA follows a February announcement by
the American Basketball League that it would begin a 40-game
season in eight cities next October.  ABL co-founder Gary Cavalli
could not be reached for comment.  It was "unclear what impact
the NBA's decision would have on the ABL's plans" (Mike Reynolds,
     GONE GLOBAL:  CNN's "Moneyline" reported the formation of
the WNBA comes as the NBA is putting a "full court press" on its
international audience in the hopes of "evolving as a global
entertainment company, much like Disney."  NBA Properties
President Rick Welts:  "The NBA is in a position that no other
league has ever been in.  If you ever look at that other world
game, soccer, if you're Brazilian, you think the world's best
soccer is played in Brazil.  If you're English, you think it's in
England.  But no one disputes the fact that the 350 best
basketball players in the world all play in one league."  Last
year, overseas sales of NBA licensed merchandise reached $400M,
or 10% of the league's total consumer products sales.  Meanwhile,
since the '92 Olympics, the NBA has "nearly doubled" its global
TV audience.  Games are now broadcast in 175 countries and 40
languages.  Michael Levine, Dir of Marketing at Athletes and
Artists, says the NBA's global approach is much the same as a
movie studio's overseas strategy.  Levine:  "They see their
players just like movie studios see their hot ticket stars, as
superstars who can be translated into hits overseas much the same
way they're hits here in this country" (CNN, 4/24).