The NFL's new eight-year, $17.6B TV package was
unanimously approved yesterday by league owners "who also
were told to expect the player salary cap" to increase from
$41.5M in '97 to between $53M to $55M for the '98 season,
according to Leonard Shapiro of the WASHINGTON POST. The
final cap amount "will be determined" when the league and
its TV partners "settle on the payment schedule" for the
first year of the deal, which "should be completed by the
end of next week." Owners were "clearly" in a "buoyant
mood" in discussing the TV deal. Afterward, Raiders Owner
Al Davis said, "In the last contract, as soon as it was
over, ABC and ESPN were sold to Disney for [$19.6B]. CBS
was sold for [$6.5B]. One of the outstanding features of
that difference was CBS not having the NFL. When you see
what Fox did (with football), we built that network"
(WASHINGTON POST, 1/23). Ravens Owner Art Modell: "Why
should I be happy? We are just going to give it all to the
players, anyway." In Boston, Will McDonough notes the
increasing salary cap and adds, "It didn't take long to
realize that Modell was on the money" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/23).
ART HAS HIS: Modell admitted yesterday that the TV deal
will make it tougher for cities to attain public funding for
facility financing: "I think it'll be a long time before you
see a publicly subsidized stadium again, even though most of
the money goes to the players. I wish I would say it's not
so, but that's the case" (Vito Stellino, Balt. SUN, 1/23).
Modell, on Broncos Owner Pat Bowlen, who is lobbying for
public help on a new stadium: "Nobody can stand up now and
say they need a new stadium and those new revenues in order
to stay competitive. ... I think Pat has a good, sound
position on needing a new stadium, but I don't know how
politically inviting it will be for the city fathers to
support it. With this kind of money coming in, that's going
to be an awfully tough sell." In Denver, Bob Kravitz: "The
sound you just heard? That's Bowlen's jaw dropping to the
pavement" (Bob Kravitz, ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS, 1/23).
TALKS OFF: In N.Y., Mike Freeman reports that the NFL
and NFLPA "have reached an impasse" on a CBA extension and
"both sides feel a pact won't be reached soon." NFLPA Exec
Dir Gene Upshaw: "Talks have broken off" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/23).
NOTES: One of the NFL's int'l exhibition games will be
played in Vancouver this year, on August 15, between the
49ers and Seahawks (TORONTO SUN, 1/23)....The forecast for
Sunday in San Diego is for mostly clear skies with a high
near 70 (Mult., 1/23)....Bill Walsh contributes an op-ed in
the N.Y. TIMES on the hiring of minority coaches in the NFL,
writing that litigation will not solve the "problems of
hiring in the N.F.L." Walsh: "Those with the most influence
have not necessarily been active addressing the social
undercurrent. ... The reason is that most owners do not
regularly come into contact with African-Americans other
than to talk with them after a game" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/23).
The NHL "should consider" staging a game featuring the
top 40 Canadian Hockey League prospects during its All-Star
Weekend, according to Kostya Kennedy of SI. Kennedy: "The
NHL dreads the logistical nightmare of adding the CHL game
to an already overstuffed weekend. They're also afraid that
the game might not draw fans in U.S. cities. But if the
game is packaged with the All-Stars skill competition,
spectators will turn out" (SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, 1/26 issue).
Latrell Sprewell's arbitration hearing, which will
begin next week in Portland, OR, is examined by Mike Wise of
the N.Y. TIMES. Sprewell has been in New York since Tuesday
to "go over the legal brief" the NBPA has prepared and
yesterday Wise spoke to him and members of his defense team.
The matter will be heard by Fordham Law School Dean John
Feerick, and NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter referred to Feerick
and said, "To what extent is he affected by public pressure?
I think the N.B.A. reaped a media bonanza on this thing,
and that's one of the reasons we haven't been able to
settle. It's been such a windfall for them that any step
back would be interpreted as a retreat" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/23).
Sprewell told Peter Vecsey, "I realize what a big mistake I
made." But Sprewell added, "It's as if I'm another O.J.
Simpson. Yes, I was wrong, but I didn't kill anybody. I'm
not a double murderer" (N.Y. POST, 1/23).
REF TROUBLE: SI's Jackie MacMullan reports that the
Federal Government is "poised to indict as many as seven
referees next month," with 15 still under investigation for
allegedly downgrading NBA airline tickets, pocketing the
money and failing to declare it. MacMullan adds that a
sampling of NBA coaches and GM's showed that most "agreed
that the removal of seven refs would be disastrous" to the
quality of officiating (SI, 1/26 issue).
The IRL opens its season this weekend with the Indy 200
at Walt Disney World Speedway, and Juliet Macur of the
ORLANDO SENTINEL writes, "After two years of stumbling, the
IRL hopes to show the racing world that it finally has
weaned itself from [CART]." IRL execs "expect the 50,000-
seat grandstands to be almost full." IRL Founder Tony
George "expects this season to be the IRL's strongest yet."
The league has signed Pep Boys as its title sponsor, each of
its 11 races will be broadcast live on network or cable TV
and "for the first time, there will be drivers who will not
automatically make it into the race because there are more
drivers than there are starting spots." George: "There is
really no dialogue between CART and the IRL anymore. Now
we're focused on our product and they're focused on theirs"
(ORLANDO SENTINEL, 1/23). In Ft. Lauderdale, Richard
Biebrich writes the IRL "is here to stay." Biebrich:
"Struggling since its first race in 1996 for an identity of
its own, the IRL now has a major sponsor in Pep Boys and
stars such as Tony Stewart" (SUN-SENTINEL, 1/23). In
Dallas, Holly Cain: "There are those who figured the [IRL]
would just go away. But corporate America has other ideas.
... The big-time involvement of a company such as Pep Boys
sends a message that the series has arrived, whether you
still question the competency of its drivers or the level of
competition" (Holly Cain, DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 1/22).