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Volume 24 No. 159

Franchises

          Dodgers President Peter O'Malley decision to put the
     Dodgers up for sale was examined in an analysis by Wilgoren
     & Rutten of the L.A. TIMES.  O'Malley "appears to have been
     influenced ... [by] his deep personal disappointment over
     the failure of the city and the community immediately around
     Dodger Stadium to back his bid" for an NFL team, but "the
     relative importance of O'Malley's unhappiness with the
     city's treatment of his football bid is hard to gauge."  A
     source "close to O'Malley" says that O'Malley was "disturbed
     greatly" when L.A.'s City Hall asked him to bid for the
     franchise, then backed the bid to put an NFL team at L.A.'s
     Memorial Coliseum rather than Chavez Ravine.  L.A. Mayor
     Richard Riordan: "Unfortunately, his bid never got a chance
     to play itself out fully."  Steven Soboroff, Riordan's
     Senior Policy Advisor said the Dodgers "never completed a
     thorough economic analysis of their (NFL bid) and they were
     a long way from financially validating its viability."  
          QUESTIONABLE SUPPORT? The TIMES' Wilgoren & Rutten cite
     "knowledgeable sources" inside L.A.'s business and legal
     communities, who say O'Malley's feelings about the NFL
     sequence of events "probably paled in comparison to the
     financial considerations and his well-known distaste for the
     current culture of major league baseball -- particularly its
     player salary structure and revenue-sharing policies."  With
     O'Malley unable to "grow his business" by acquiring an NFL
     team, other investors said that he had to "confront" the
     fact that his extended family was dependent on a single
     asset -- the Dodgers -- "which was not only liquid, but also
     experiencing increasing cash flow problems. ... [T]he
     Dodgers -- though generally profitable -- have had to borrow
     increasing amounts to meet short-term expenses in recent
     years."  Even with the sale, some familiar with NFL
     negotiations believe that O'Malley "may yet get involved in
     pro football" as an owner of a franchise that would play
     either in the Coliseum or elsewhere (L.A. TIMES, 1/12).
          WEEKEND REAX: In Boston, Peter Gammons notes that
     O'Malley "did promise" NL owners that he will continue the
     "fight" for a new MLB commissioner at this week's meetings
     in AZ, because, for one thing, "he believes having a new
     commissioner will enhance the value of his franchise"
     (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/12).  In Houston, Alan Truex notes that
     O'Malley "unwittingly contributed to his demise by joining
     with the radicals to oust commissioner Fay Vincent --
     thereby setting the stage for the devastating three-year
     labor war" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 1/11).  ESPN's Bob Ryan:
     "Anybody who knows anything about sports must concede that
     both Walter and his boy knew how to run a franchise.  There
     truly was something known as a 'Dodger Touch,' and now it
     will be lost forever" ("The Sports Reporters," ESPN, 1/12). 

          The NHL Rangers unveiled their third jersey which
     features a darker shade than the club's usual royal blue and
     features a likeness of the Statue of Liberty above the
     letters NYR.  The Rangers will wear the jersey for the first
     time tonight against the Islanders (NEWSDAY, 1/11). 
     Columnist Joe Lapointe, on the Rangers' new jersey: "Perhaps
     the Rangers should be careful with this jersey business.  In
     hockey, it's a fine line between fashion and passion" (N.Y.
     TIMES, 1/12)....In Indianapolis, former Mariners Owner Jeff
     Smulyan, on talks of the Colts leaving Indianapolis: "The
     city still has a binding, 18-year lease, so even if the team
     goes somewhere else, that city would be liable for damages. 
     And no city can afford that ... no city can live with
     contingent liabilities" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR-NEWS, 1/11). 

          Police over the weekend cleared Cowboys Erik Williams
     and Michael Irvin of a sexual assault charge after
     determining that the accusation was false.  Williams is
     considering legal action "against the police department and
     others," and Irvin and his lawyer "have not discussed their
     next step" (Kelly Carter, USA TODAY, 1/13).  
          MEDIA ETHICS EXAMINED: In the wake of Irvin's and
     Williams' clearance, the ethics of sports media was examined
     by ESPN's Jeremy Schaap on "SportsWeekly."  Dallas Morning
     News Exec VP & Editor Ralph Langer: "The story was forced by
     what the police department did.  They had a choice to not do
     that and they did it, and once they went public and read
     these people's names into the record, then it couldn't not
     be reported"  Bob Lichter, head of Center for Media & Public
     Affairs: "It was just too juicy.  Violence against women,
     celebrity athletes out of control, the Dallas Cowboys riding
     for a fall" ("SportsWeekly," ESPN, 1/12).         
          REAX: Header in the DALLAS MORNING NEWS: "Image Still
     Tarnished, Pundits Say. Some Call Backlash Unavoidable
     Despite Vindication Of Players" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 1/12).
     Header in the FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM: "Cowboys Need To
     Tackle PR Crisis" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 1/12).  Mike
     Lupica: "Sometimes we all go too far, and they were innocent
     this time, and you know what?  It is about time" ("The
     Sports Reporters," ESPN, 1/12).  NBC's Cris Collinsworth
     said Irvin and Williams "deserve the same kind of treatment
     on national television once this story went away that it got
     when this whole thing started to break" (NBC, 1/12).  

          The T-Wolves have become a "hot ticket," according Sid
     Hartman of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE.  Including sales
     for upcoming games, they have sold more tickets this season
     than all of '95-96.  T-Wolves VP/Sales & Marketing Chris
     Wright: "We used to sell [Michael] Jordan and other NBA
     stars, but now we can sell Kevin Garnett, Tom Gugliotta and
     Stephon Marbury, our own stars.  The commercials are sold
     out on our Channel 11 TV and MSC broadcasts, and 90 percent
     of our radio (ad time) is sold."  Wright added the T-Wolves 
     corporate sponsors have increased from 40 last year to 68;
     they have only two unsold suites, which they rent out on a
     game-by-game basis; season-ticket sales are up 2,000 to
     9,400; and they are selling 2,000-3,000 tickets at the box
     office each game night (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 1/11).

          The Bullets won a trademark infringement case Friday,
     clearing the way for the team to change its name to the
     Wizards next season, according to Heath & Adande of the
     WASHINGTON POST.  The ruling allows the Bullets and the NBA
     to move ahead with developing Wizards merchandise in time
     for the team's move into the MCI Center this fall.  The
     trademark case was brought by the Harlem Wizards, a
     traveling comedy basketball team, and they said they plan to
     appeal the decision.  U.S. District Judge William Walls said
     the Harlem Wizards "would not be affected because fans will
     know the obvious differences between them and the NBA team." 
     The N.Y. firm of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom
     represented the NBA and the Bullets. Harlem Wizards players
     testified that some people who saw them wearing "Wizards"
     shirts asked them if they played for the Bullets, but Walls
     wrote that "these examples are too weak and few to establish
     actual confusion" (WASHINGTON POST, 1/11).

          In a TV interview taped Friday, CT Gov. John Rowland
     said that he would not oppose a move by the Whalers this
     year if the proposal for a new facility "does not make
     sense," according to Jeff Jacobs in the HARTFORD COURANT. 
     Rowland: "Let's make a decision.  The Whalers want to know
     if we're going to build this facility.  If we're not, they
     want to leave early.  And I think that's fair.  They don't
     want to have a lame-duck (season).  That doesn't serve
     anybody's purposes."  Rowland did not say if he would make
     the Whalers pay an exit fee.  When lease negotiations broke
     down last spring, Rowland said it would cost the Whalers
     $30M to break their Civic Center lease.  Rowland said the
     team staying in Hartford is "a 50-50 shot" (HARTFORD
     COURANT, 1/11).  Whalers Owner Peter Karmanos "sounded
     appreciative," after Rowland's remarks, but said his "No. 1
     concern ... is to come up with the best solution to keep the
     Whalers in Hartford" (Jeff Jacobs, HARTFORD COURANT, 1/12).