The NBA's Board of Governor's is "poised to take the
first step in a journey that will lead to a modified
collective bargaining agreement or an uncertain labor
future," according to David Moore of the DALLAS MORNING
NEWS. League officials "confirmed" that today in Dallas
owners will void the final three years of the NBA's
agreement and "return to the negotiating table" with the
NBPA. Moore also reports that NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter
has said that he plans to meet with the league around April
1 (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 3/23). NBA Deputy Commissioner Russ
Granik: "Lockout isn't part of our vocabulary right now. ...
You never know, but we have a very cordial and professional
relationship with union leadership, and we'll do our best to
try and maintain that." Hunter: "[W]e've still got between
now and October and November to work out a deal." In N.Y.,
Mike Wise pointed to the "smart" participants in the
negotiations, Granik, Hunter and NBA Commissioner David
Stern, and wrote to "expect both sides to compromise before
the summer ends" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/23). In Boston, Peter May
wrote the difference between today and the last NBA labor
disruption in '95 is Hunter, "who has shown already that he
is both reasonable and dogged" (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/22).
NOT OPTIMISTIC: In N.Y, Mitch Lawrence wrote that Stern
is "expected to get a pulse on whether his employers are
willing to shut down operations for what might be a year."
One ownership source: "There are some owners who want to
make a big-time stand and get to the root of the issues."
While there are questions of how "unified" ownership is "to
commit to more than a summer-time lockout," Lawrence added
that "hawks," including the Jazz's Larry Miller and the
Clippers' Don Sterling, "will push to lock the players out
for a year, if necessary" (DAILY NEWS, 3/22). In L.A., Mark
Heisler wrote Stern "reportedly is ready to lock the players
out till next Christmas or longer" (L.A. TIMES, 3/22).
NFL owners are "expected to award" Cleveland an
expansion franchise as early as this week, leaving Houston
and L.A. "in a match race to become the NFL's 32nd
franchise," according to T.J. Simers of the L.A. TIMES. But
Simers wrote that L.A.'s New Coliseum Partners (NCP), "who
have been running in place for the last two years ... could
be passed by a new prospect just as the competition is
officially set to begin." Michael Ovitz "has caught the
fancy of NFL officials with a San Francisco 49er-like plan
for a stadium and shopping mall" in Carson, CA. The Carson
site "has been advanced successfully in recent weeks" by
Ovitz, who has been working with an OH-based mall developer.
One "high-ranking" NFL source: "It's a little early yet, but
this project appears to have a lot of potential." Simers:
"At no time during its dogged campaign ... have the [NCP]
received such an NFL endorsement." The NCP "appear to also
have fallen behind Hollywood Park, which recently altered
its strategy to the NFL's satisfaction." It "proposed
selling a 30-acre piece of property to the NFL, or any NFL-
designated owner interested in constructing a stadium on the
site." While some NFL owners remain interested in the
Dodger Stadium site, the NFL has "been advised" by the Fox
Group that their "attention will be directed solely on
improving Dodger Stadium" (L.A. TIMES, 3/22).
LONGER TIMETABLE? In Houston, John Williams writes that
league owners "warned" yesterday that it "could be as long
as two years before a decision" is made on the 32nd team.
While "several" owners said Houston is ahead of L.A. in
getting a new football stadium in place, "league owners will
give [L.A.] all the time it needs to put together a stadium
plan." Broncos Owner Pat Bowlen: "We're talking about a
couple of years, at least" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 3/23).
Because MLB management "has accomplished previously
unimaginable things" during the reign of Acting Commissioner
Bud Selig, "many owners have lost their desire to hire an
outside candidate," according to Tom Haudricourt of the
MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL. With COO Paul Beeston running
the business side, the "prevailing theory is 'don't fix what
ain't broke.'" One possible scenario has Beeston remaining
as COO, Selig staying in his post as Chair of the Executive
Council and "someone such as" NL President Len Coleman being
"named commissioner in what amounts to a figurehead role"
(MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 3/22). In Philadelphia, Jayson
Stark wrote there are "indications Coleman has emerged as a
prime in-house alternative to Selig as permanent
commissioner" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 3/22).
IF A TREE FALLS IN THE FOREST...: In N.Y., Murray
Chass, writing on the inaction during the search for a
commissioner, asked, "So does anybody really care?" Red Sox
CEO John Harrington: "Everybody does." But Twins Owner Carl
Pohlad said there has "been less conversation 'than you'd
think.'" Pohlad: "It's been strangely silent" (N.Y. TIMES,
3/22)....In Boston, Peter Gammons wrote that Selig and
Beeston "should seriously consider enlisting" Paul Molitor
as a Deputy Commissioner and liaison to the MLBPA after he
retires at the end of the season. Gammons: "[F]ew union
leaders have ever understood management's side more than
Molitor" (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/22)....In N.Y., Tom Keegan wrote
that Expos ownership is a "topic that should have been
discussed" at MLB's quarterly meeting. Keegan called the
Expos a "disgrace. And their competitors are growing sick
and tired of it." One MLB club exec: "Teams are losing
money going there to play. A lot of people are fed up with
the way that's being run up there" (N.Y. POST, 3/22).
NFL owners meetings opened in Orlando yesterday, and
the Management Council's Exec Committee voted to approve the
extension of the CBA, according to USA TODAY's Larry
Weisman. The full group of owners "considers" the CBA today
and it needs 23 of 30 votes in favor to pass. The NFLPA's
Board of Player Reps ratified the deal unanimously in HI on
Friday. If the owners vote against the deal, the NFLPA
"says it will not renegotiate and will let the current labor
deal expire after the 2000 season" (USA TODAY, 3/23).
WELLINGTON'S BEEF? Giants co-Owner Wellington Mara,
"one of the most respected men" in the NFL, may speak out on
the proposed CBA this week in Orlando, according to Mike
Freeman of the N.Y. TIMES. One owner: "Wellington is
strongly opposed to one part of this agreement and in turn,
the entire thing. When Wellington talks, people listen. He
will swing votes, and a week from now we could be back at
the negotiating table with the union." Agreement supporters
fear Mara could give a "passionate plea on why the
guaranteed contract provision" of the deal is "a truly bad
idea." But Freeman added that the deal "will most likely be
approved by only a slim margin" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/22). Mara
dismissed the N.Y. Times report and said he would not urge
owners to vote against the deal: "Not me. You've got the
wrong guy" (Paul Needell, Newark STAR-LEDGER, 3/23).
OTHER NEWS: In Baltimore, Vito Stellino wrote that
instant replay, which is also on the agenda at the meetings,
"faces an uphill fight" to be approved (Balt. SUN, 3/22).
WTA Tour CEO Bart McGuire said yesterday that while the
ATP Tour has proposed joint men's and women's tennis events
which pool sponsorship and TV revenue, his "priority" is to
obtain a new long-term title sponsorship deal and a new TV
deal for the women's tour. Speaking with the media at the
Lipton Championships, McGuire said he has "philosophic
concerns, economic concerns, and some very practical
concerns about the joint venture concept." McGuire: "I
really doubt that the WTA Tour and the ATP Tour can agree on
prize money, revenue sharing, television exposure, to say
nothing of issues like practice and locker room facilities."
McGuire said he had not "quite shut the door on the joint
venture concept," but added that it is "not likely to happen
in the near future." McGuire will "consider the creation of
new combined events on an individual basis" (WTA Tour). In
Sunday's N.Y. TIMES, ATP Tour CEO Mark Miles said he was
"enormously frustrated" by the WTA Tour's perception that
any merger would undermine its position as the No. 1 women's
sport in the world. Miles: "I'm absolutely convinced that
nothing they can do on their own would generate as much
revenue as they would receive if they did collaborate with
us, and I also don't think the combined tour would impair
the ATP Tour's identity or that of the women." The TIMES'
Robin Finn: "Is tennis at a gender crossroads just in time
for the millennium? It looks that way" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/22).
THAT'S RIGHT, THE WOMEN ARE STRONGER? In Miami, Edwin
Pope wrote on the crowds at the Lipton and called it the
"biggest sports-spectator event in South Florida history."
He added that "male professionals are trying to get back up
to speed with the females since Martina Hingis, Venus and
Serena Williams and Anna Kournikova ... arrived. Women are
coming on stronger than ever while the men's game is headed
for a crowd-appeal crisis" (MIAMI HERALD, 3/22).
OTHER WTA NEWS: McGuire said the Tour's Board of
Directors ratified the settlement to the players' dispute
announced in February. The Board also voted to add three
"independent, senior business executives, with no financial
interest in tennis," and agreed to eliminate the requirement
that matters be unanimously agreed upon." Finally, the Tour
will also open a European office in London to be headed by
its Dir of European Operations Georgina Clark (WTA Tour).