SPREE TO BE YOU & ME: NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter, asked
if he could have helped Latrell Sprewell better prepare for
his recent media appearances: "I would have probably --
hopefully -- better prepared him. I would have probably
been a little more selective in terms of what shows I
permitted him to go on." The tour was scheduled by
Sprewell's agent, Arm Tellem. Hunter, meanwhile, "distanced
himself -- and the union -- from the interviews." Hunter:
"It probably doesn't play too well with some people"
(BLOOMBERG/PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 3/11)....Sprewell, on
whether he feels a weight has been lifted from him since the
ruling: "I'm starting to feel that as I can get out and tell
people what really happened" ("Inside the NBA," TNT, 3/10).
NOTES: Pilot Pen CEO Mike Davies is "seeking a four- or
five-year lease with an option for another five years" from
the USTA to bring the U.S. Women's Hardcourt Championship to
New Haven, CT. In Hartford, Greg Garber reports that if a
deal is reached, Davies' organization "is prepared to
piggyback local advertising for the women's event" with the
men's Pilot Pen tournament (HARTFORD COURANT, 3/11)....Also
in Hartford, Jerry Trecker previews the upcoming MLS season,
and writes that the league "faces a continuing battle to
gain acceptance beyond the already committed fans." Trecker
reports that the '98 season will open with "some positives,"
including two new teams and a "better television package,"
which includes games on ABC, ESPN, Univision and regional
sports nets. Trecker adds that "sponsor interest remains
high, too, suggesting the business world has more confidence
in" the sport, but that "in the meantime, a low profile is
still the operative mode for MLS" (HARTFORD COURANT, 3/11).
"Many of the [NBA's] referees say they think the IRS is
mounting another charge at several of them," according to
Dwight Jaynes of the Portland OREGONIAN. One NBA ref:
"There are still about 25 of us under investigation, and we
think another 15 could be indicted by April 15." But Jaynes
wrote that "there is an assertion by some that the actual
amount of taxes owed is not enough to merit the heat of this
investigation." One ref said George Tolliver, a former ref
indicted last year, "owed tax of about $10,000. But he lost
his job and his ability to repay the debt. ... People owe
much more in taxes than that all the time and don't get
prosecuted." Two refs also told Jaynes that the NBA "had a
part" in the investigation and added, "They knew what we
were doing and, in fact, used it against us in collective
bargaining. It was a way for them to pay us more money
without having to pay various payroll taxes on that money.
Now they are doing nothing to help us." But Jaynes wrote of
"speculation" that NBA Commissioner David Stern is waiting
for the investigation to end and "then will contemplate some
kind of amnesty program." NBA Senior VP Rod Thorn: "David
has said publicly this isn't necessarily a death sentence.
But he hasn't said it isn't either" (OREGONIAN, 3/10).
THE OTHER REF: NEW YORK's Barbara Campbell profiles
Sandra Ortiz-Del Valle, who filed a $1M gender
discrimination suit against the NBA, "which declined to hire
her as a ref despite her seventeen years of experience." NBA
League Counsel Jeffrey Mishkin said that Ortiz-Del Valle
"did not" meet the NBA's standards. Ortiz-Del Valle has
rejected two NBA settlement offers, first $25,000, then
$75,000, "in favor of her day in court" (NEW YORK, 3/98).
The Professional Hockey Players' Association (PHPA) and
the AHL announced the ratification of a new, four-year
Collective Bargaining Agreement. The CBA, extending through
August 31, 2002, was approved by the AHL players.
Components of the deal include: a PHPA sponsored 401(k)/
Group RRSP; revised Standard Player's Contract; increased
player per diem; increased pension contributions; player
benefit program enhancements; and increased minimum salary
for players recalled from lesser leagues (PHPA).
The USOC "is not ready to announce specific punishment
for the room-trashing episode" involving U.S. hockey players
in Nagano, but Joe Lapointe of the N.Y. TIMES writes that
the USOC "appears to be moving away from threats, hoping for
a settlement in the form of a group apology and a
significant payment by team members." The USOC had
"threatened possible sanctions" against the entire team for
the incident, possibly banning all players from future
international competitions. Lapointe: "The new strategy
seems to be based, at least in part, on a feeling that the
USOC may be on uncertain legal ground trying to punish the
hockey team as a whole" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/11). In N.Y., Ira
Berkow writes under the header "Hockey Team's Stonewalling
Is Childlike Behavior." Berkow, in response to Brian Leetch
who recently said the threat of a team penalty sounded like
"elementary school": "If they act like children, it is only
proper that they be treated like children" (N.Y. TIMES,
3/11). USOC President Bill Hybl and USOC Exec Dir Dick
Schultz will hold a news conference today (USA TODAY, 3/11).