Patrick Ewing's election as NBPA President "comes at a
very pivotal time for the players association," according to
Mike Wise of the N.Y. TIMES. With the "growing possibility
that the league will reopen" the CBA next year, "he could be
at the forefront of securing a new deal and coping with a
potential lockout." Ewing, who led a move to decertify the
union in '95, was accused with others "of essentially being
a tool of what many perceived to be an agent-led movement."
But Ewing and others "feel that many of their predictions
regarding the league turning into a caste system under the
current agreement have come true" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/17).
WOMEN'S DAY: NBA VP Rod Thorn confirmed that "the
league is preparing for the potential introduction of female
officials this season," according to Ira Winderman of the
Fort Lauderdale SUN-SENTINEL. The final referee roster will
be determined later this month, but Winderman writes that
the league is "expected to add a significant number of new
officials" in the wake of the IRS investigation of several
veteran referees (Fort Lauderdale SUN-SENTINEL, 9/17).
MLB Realignment Committee Chair and Red Sox CEO John
Harrington said that "it's possible but unlikely that owners
will vote" this week on a realignment plan, according to
Mark Maske of the WASHINGTON POST. Harrington: "If we can
whittle them down to two or three and do more study, maybe
you take a vote in two or three weeks. But there can be a
breakthrough here" (WASHINGTON POST, 9/17). Harrington:
"Everybody wants to do something. They just don't want it
to affect them. Do open-heart surgery, but don't leave a
mark" (Tom Haudricourt, MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 9/17).
The committee will meet this morning and then present data
in separate NL and AL meetings (Ross Newhan, L.A. TIMES,
9/17). In Atlanta, I.J. Rosenberg writes that "one thing was
clear" from yesterday's meetings -- "a compromise will be
tough to reach" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 9/17). In N.Y.,
Murray Chass reports that realignment "has stalled so badly
that it may be moving in reverse" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/17).
ESPN's Peter Gammons: "Everyone wants something to change
they just don't want to be affected by it, and that's really
a serious problem" ("Baseball Tonight," ESPN, 9/16).
MURPHY'S LAST STAND? In N.Y., Bill Madden writes that
Selig "is under fire ... for failing to deal with the issue"
of MLBE President Greg Murphy, "whom the owners want fired."
Yankees Owner George Steinbrenner did not attend the
meetings "because his suit with adidas against baseball
probably won't get settled until" Murphy is "gone." A
Yankee source said that the suit "is close to being settled,
with adidas getting a share of the major league apparel
deal, but that Murphy is still holding out to cut an
exclusive deal with Nike" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 9/17).
EVERYBODY MURRAY FRUM TONIGHT: In Toronto, Jim Byers
reports that while the sale of the Blue Jays to a group led
by Murray Frum is on MLB's agenda, "sources said the deal
likely wouldn't get approved and that there are still some
wrinkles, including the lack of financial disclosures by one
of the consortium members and perhaps even some new faces in
the deal." But Frum said that "there are no new faces in
his group and that he isn't aware of any outstanding issues
with his ownership bid" (TORONTO STAR, 9/17).
MLS Commissioner Doug Logan pointed to four "success
stories" and two areas of "deep concern" in looking at this
season's MLS attendance, according to Jerry Langdon of USA
TODAY. MLS has seen overall attendance drop 16.3% this year
from 17,416 to 14,573. Logan is pleased with fan support in
New England, Washington, DC, and Colorado, while adding the
Tampa Bay Mutiny, who are down 3.4%, has "done well to
basically hold its base." Logan did "show concern" over the
Dallas Burn, down 38.4%, and the KC Wizards, down 31.5%.
Logan: "We're going to analyze these two situations. ...
[W]e should be drawing more" (USA TODAY, 9/17). Logan added
that "more weekday games are anticipated" next year. The
league had 88% of its games on weekends this year. In other
news, Langdon reports that a TV deal has been reached "in
principle" with ABC, ESPN and ESPN2 on a contract for next
year, "but no details have been released" (USA TODAY, 9/17).
IN FLORIDA: The Broward School Board has "approved a
tentative lease agreement" at Ft. Lauderdale's Lockhart
Stadium for the MLS Fusion. The team is also "continuing"
talks with the city of Miami (MIAMI HERALD, 9/17).
The ABL's '96 MVP Nikki McCray officially changed
leagues yesterday and signed with the WNBA. In a statement,
ABL CEO Gary Cavalli said, "Nikki is an excellent player,
and we will miss her. But the sun still came up this
morning, and the ABL is alive and well." Cavalli said that
in her contract negotiations, McCray asked for a salary that
was more than three times as much of other '96 U.S.
Olympians in the ABL. She also requested the first right of
refusal on all major endorsement deals offered to ABL
players. He called the demands "unrealistic, excessive, and
unfair to the other players in the league" (ABL).
DETAILS: McCray's attorney, DC-based Lon Babby, said
that McCray turned down a more lucrative offer from the ABL
but that the "key" to her decision were the "promotional
opportunities" (Amy Shipley, WASHINGTON POST, 9/17).
Cavalli called McCray's request for the right of first
refusal on endorsement deals "outrageous," adding, "There's
no way a league could ever agree to something like that"
(Aaron Portzline, COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 9/16). In Philadelphia,
Mel Greenberg reports that McCray "is expected to become
another WNBA player spokeswomen, joining Rebecca Lobo,
Sheryl Swoopes and Lisa Leslie, who all received reported
$250,000 deals." McCray, "one of the few" ABL players who
initially signed a one-year deal, on the WNBA: "Watching
their season this year, they generated a lot of fan support"
(PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 9/17). More McCray: "It went back
and forth daily, and I pretty much decided over the weekend"
(Bobby Hall, COMMERCIAL APPEAL, 9/17). McCray: "The ABL was
a success last year, but just looking at the whole situation
... and the two proposals that were made to me, I felt the
WNBA was the best choice for me" (ESPN, 9/16).
WAR, WHAT IS IT GOOD FOR? In Washington, Amy Shipley
writes the move is "yet another signal that the ABL will be
hard-pressed to stand up to the enormous power of the NBA-
backed WNBA." But Shipley adds a "flurry of defections is
unlikely to be precipitated by McCray's move" (WASHINGTON
POST, 9/17). Cavalli: "Is it war? No. But it is open
season" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 9/17). More Cavalli: "A
number of W.N.B.A. players have contacted us about moving
after the coming season and we will talk to them." WNBA
President Val Ackerman: "We are very interested in
attracting the best players we can find, wherever they come
from" (Frank Litsky, N.Y. TIMES, 9/17). In N.Y., Ursula
Reel examines the two leagues and writes, "Things aren't
looking too good for the ABL." Reel adds that ABL execs and
players "wonder how they've become the 'other league' when
their league came first" (N.Y. POST, 9/17).
CHANGE LEAGUES AND GAMES? USA TODAY's Valerie Lister
reports that McCray doesn't have any endorsements yet, but
"is negotiating a contract" with Fila (USA TODAY, 9/17).