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Volume 24 No. 157

Leagues Governing Bodies

          The WNBA announced today that ABL MVP Nikki McCray has     jumped leagues and signed with the WNBA.  McCray will join a     team of 11 WNBA players in Europe this October (WNBA).  ABL     CEO Gary Cavalli: "The basic reason she left is that the     WNBA gives her more promotional exposure."  McCray earned     $125,000 last year with the ABL (Valerie Lister, USA TODAY,     9/16).  In N.Y., Lisa Olson reports that with a "personal     services" contract at the WNBA, McCray is "expected to make     around" $250,000.  Sources tell Olson that McCray will be     "optioned out" to one of the WNBA's expansion teams.  Olson:     "The first bullet has been fired, and it's a killer. ...     [The move] could be the opening salvo in what is shaping up     to be a bitter war between the two pro leagues" over     players.  Now that "each league has finished its debut     season, the gloves are off" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 9/16).           TIP-INS: Cavalli said that while the league lost $4-5M     in its inaugural season, it projects losses of up to $1.5M     this year and plans to break even by next season.  In other     ABL news, Fox Sports Net "plans to put microphones on     coaches, officials and, possibly, players" for its ABL     coverage this season, according to USA TODAY's Rudy Martzke.      Players could be miked on a tape-delayed basis to "avoid     embarrassing language" (USA TODAY, 9/16).  

          FedEx "begins negotiations this week" with CART to
     "become the title sponsor of its racing series, a spot now
     held by PPG Industries," according to Shannon Stevens of
     BRANDWEEK.  While FedEx "is expected" to land title
     sponsorship, PPG, with CART since '79, "will likely stay on
     board as presenting sponsor" (BRANDWEEK, 9/15 issue).
          OBSESSION: In Baltimore, Peter Jensen on NASCAR: "Call
     it a religion, a fad, a social phenomenon, but NASCAR racing
     is hot right now, and not just in the South."  Stock car
     racing "has become a national obsession -- and a marketing
     executive's dream," the "perfect marriage of professional
     sports and marketing."  Jensen wrote that more than 10.5
     million attended NASCAR events during the February-November
     season, making it a $2B-a-year industry and that the 32
     Winston Cup races "are the most popular races in the world." 
     Gatorade's Dir of NASCAR Marketing Edward Shull: "If we had
     a free dollar in our sports marketing department right now,
     it would go to NASCAR" (Baltimore SUN, 9/14). 
          ATTENDANCE: NASCAR's Country Music Television 300 at
     the New Hampshire International Speedway drew an "estimated"
     crowd of 88,000 Sunday (Lessels & Vega, BOSTON GLOBE, 9/15).

          The NBPA elected Patrick Ewing as its new president,
     according to Roscoe Nance of USA TODAY.  NBPA Exec Dir Billy
     Hunter and Ewing's agent, David Falk, both called Ewing one
     of the top player "experts" on the CBA.  Ewing: "My goal is
     to make sure the players stay unified ... We have a lot of
     important business ahead of us, and there is no limit to
     what we can accomplish if we stay together."  Joining Ewing
     on the Exec Committee are First VP Charles Smith, VPs Tyrone
     Corbin, Juwan Howard, Dikembe Mutombo, Mitch Richmond, Mark
     West and Herb Williams and Secretary/Treasurer Jim McIlvaine
     (USA TODAY, 9/16).  Ewing will serve a four-year term as
     president and now has "one of the strongest voices in the
     union he once tried to decertify" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/16).

          MLB owners begin meetings in Atlanta today through
     Thursday in "an attempt to realign" the AL and NL, according
     to I.J. Rosenberg of the ATLANTA CONSTITUTION.  The 13-
     member realignment committee will meet "early this evening,"
     then MLB's Executive Council will meet.  On Wednesday, the
     leagues will meet separately and the full group of owners
     will convene Thursday, "for a possible vote on realignment"
     (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 9/16).  In Chicago, Jerome Holtzman
     writes that Acting Commissioner Bud Selig, "aware he doesn't
     have the votes" for a radical realignment plan, "may
     downsize."  Holtzman writes that, "in the final version, if
     there is one, there would be only three or four" team
     relocations (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 9/16).  In Milwaukee, Tom
     Haudricourt reports the measure could be tabled if no
     proposal gains enough support (JOURNAL SENTINEL, 9/16).
          RINGOLSBY ON MAGOWAN: In Denver, Tracy Ringolsby writes
     on Giants Owner Peter Magowan, who has threatened to sue MLB
     if the A's are put in the same NL division as the Giants.
     Ringolsby: "In his short-range view, he sees a threat of
     erosion of his fan base. ... But that prompts the question:
     What fan base?"  Noting the attendance "woes" of both the
     A's and Giants, Ringolsby asks, "Could a realignment that
     puts them both in the NL do any further harm? ... [B]y the
     turn of the century only one team will remain in the Bay
     Area.  The Giants' plan for a new stadium makes them the
     favorite ... Magowan is so blinded by the red ink of the
     present that he can't see what is needed for a rose-colored
     future" (ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS, 9/16).

          CBA: CBA Commissioner Steve Patterson has "made it
     known" that his league "would be shifting its focus,"
     according to Michael Arace of the HARTFORD COURANT.  Arace:
     "The CBA wants bad students who can fill it up" (HARTFORD
     COURANT, 9/14).  NBA Kings GM Jerry Reynolds: "It sounds
     like the CBA is getting pretty desperate.  The league is
     struggling as it is, and to go get guys out of high school
     and pay them a lot more money than they've been paying
     regular players doesn't make sense" (STAR-TELEGRAM, 9/13).
          MLS: With "pathetic attendance figures" in Denver,
     K.C., Dallas, and "lately" L.A., "it all adds up to dark
     storm clouds on the horizon" for MLS, according to Grahame
     Jones on ESPN SportsZone.  But Jones points to the well-
     attended World Cup qualifying game in Portland earlier this
     month and writes, "Something dramatic needs to be done.  A
     statement needs to be made.  A three-way agreement between
     MLS, the city of Portland and Nike would be such a
     statement. ... Soccer should concentrate its efforts in
     areas where it is strongest instead of trying to blanket the
     country.  Portland could be a model" (SportsZone, 9/14).

          The NHL announced that the '98 All-Star Game will     feature a new format with the North American All-Stars     playing the World All-Stars.  The international game will be     played on Sunday, January 18, at GM Place in Vancouver.      Players from the U.S. and Canada will represent the North     American team and will face the top players from the rest of     the world.  All-Star balloting in Canada is sponsored by     McDonald's and by Russell Athletic in the U.S.  The New     Dodge is presenting sponsor throughout North America (NHL).      In Toronto, Neil Campbell reports that the new format,     reflecting the international theme of the season, "will     likely be a one-year wonder."  NHL Senior VP Steve Solomon:     "We're looking at a one-year event" (GLOBE & MAIL, 9/16).            OLYMPIC EFFORT: NHL participation in the Olympics and     the efforts of Commissioner Gary Bettman, NHLPA Exec Dir Bob     Goodenow and IIHF President Rene Fasel to gain approval for     the plan, are featured by Joe Lapointe of the N.Y. TIMES     under the header, "The N.H.L.'s Olympic Gamble: Stars     Participation in Nagano Could Raise Sport's Profile."      Lapointe: "When the Olympics arrive, the league will shut     down for 17 days, an unprecedented hiatus that entails     numerous calculated business risks.  With the Olympic hockey     games regulated to late-night [TV], with the national teams     hastily thrown together, and with the fans back home without     their regular N.H.L. teams to follow, the whole plan could     backfire and be remembered as another slip on the ice for a     sport that never seems to find as broad an audience in the     United States as its big-league competition."  Bettman:     "We're going to get exposure like the world has never seen     for hockey.  This is about 120-plus of the world's elite     hockey players playing for pride and playing for their     countries.  It will give us a tournament of high magnitude.      It will be quite compelling" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/16).           NOTES: In N.Y., Larry Brooks wrote about "rumors that     the league is attempting to apply some pressure on Disney"     to sign holdout Paul Kariya of the Mighty Ducks "in order to     ensure that he'll be with" the team when it opens a two-game     series in Tokyo.  Brooks: "[W]e discount the veracity of     those reports. Disney is in the business of applying     pressure, not receiving it" (N.Y. POST, 9/14).  In Toronto,     Damien Cox interviews Bettman on a number of league issues,     including the Kariya talks.  Bettman: "The league doesn't     get involved in individual player-club negotiations.  But as     a practical matter, no particular players were promised, and     the games are sold out anyway" (TORONTO STAR, 9/16).