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).