MLS attendance dropped 8.5% for its first six games,
"primarily because of a sharp falloff" for the L.A. Galaxy,
according to a TAMPA TRIBUNE report. MLS is averaging
19,452, down from 21,272 for its first six games last
season. MLS Commissioner Doug Logan: "We're very, very
pleased with the condition we're in" (TAMPA TRIBUNE, 3/25).
But Logan did express concern with the 11,103 who attended
the Burn's home-opener in Dallas: "We're not pleased with
the results in Dallas. Last week we spent four times the
amount of money in media (advertising) than we did the year
before" (Peter Brewington, USA TODAY, 3/25). In Dallas,
Steve Davis writes the league "remains handcuffed to mammoth
football stadiums" and "changes have been slow-going."
While the Burn called the Cotton Bowl a short-term solution,
there are few alternatives. Davis writes that SMU will
construct a 32,000-seat facility that would "be a prototype
for MLS," but SMU's AD Jim Copeland said a partnership isn't
"feasible" since the school prohibits non-collegiate events
attended by more than 16,000 (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 3/25).
AH, CAIRO, JEWEL OF THE NILE! MLS's DC United will make
the first appearance by an MLS team in Africa when it plays
Egypt's Al-Ahly club in Cairo on May 5 (AP, 3/25).
Michael Jordan "wants to play union activist this
summer," according to Lacy Banks of the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES.
Owners and players are scheduled to begin negotiating on a
new CBA next Wednesday, and Jordan said, "I'm always going
to be a pro-union player." Jordan: "I will speak out when I
feel the players are being taken advantage of. ... I will be
involved. I will contribute" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 3/25).
LABOR NOTES: Pacers President Donnie Walsh, on
reopening the CBA: "Not only are we overpaying what we
bargained for, but we're also distributing it in a way that
isn't good for the players. The top players are getting a
bigger percentage and there are a lot of players at the
bottom that are taking the minimum" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR-NEWS,
3/25). Sonics GM Wally Walker: "[T]here are some smart
people working on both sides that will work towards getting
something done that will work for everybody." Kings Player
Rep Olden Polynice called NBA Commissioner David Stern the
key to preventing a work stoppage: "[A]s long as he's there,
I don't think there will be one" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 3/24).
...NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter is profiled by Scott Soshnick
of BLOOMBERG BUSINESS NEWS, who writes that "armed with
renewed player trust, he will provide the NBA with an able
negotiation adversary" (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 3/25).
In addition to the Pilot Pen in CT, tennis tournaments
in "at least" four other cities -- San Diego, Washington,
DC, Cincinnati and Mahwah, NJ -- are pursuing the U.S.
Women's Hardcourt Championships in Stone Mountain, GA
(HARTFORD COURANT, 3/25)....The PGA Tour has filed a notice
of appeal in the Casey Martin decision in federal court in
Eugene, OR. The case will "probably be heard in six to 18
months" and is "expected to repeat the PGA Tour's original
argument that it is a private organization" and exempt from
the ADA's public accommodation guidelines (OREGONIAN, 3/24).
NFL owners had "a spirited discussion on reinstating
instant replay for the 1998 season, with more of the debate
to come Wednesday morning before the final vote," according
to Leonard Shapiro of the WASHINGTON POST. Broncos Owner
Pat Bowlen: "I'd be very pessimistic about it coming back"
(WASHINGTON POST, 3/25). In Boston, Will McDonough reports,
"Unless commissioner Paul Tagliabue steps in and changes
some votes, instant replay will be rejected again today."
He adds that some owners "will continue to vote against it
because it lengthens the game" (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/25).
LET'S GO EUROPE! NFL Europe President Oliver Luck
expects average attendance in Europe to be over 20,000 a
game. Luck: "We've still got a long way to go before I
could see us playing a regular-season [NFL] game in Europe"
(HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 3/25). NFL Int'l Senior VP Don Garber,
on the name change from the World League to NFL Europe:
"World League wasn't communicating what we believed was the
proper position for this business" (ELECTRONIC MEDIA, 3/23).
UNION SAY: The NFLPA said that it "needs to be
consulted" before the NFL begins fining and suspending
players for convictions for violent criminal offenses.
NFLPA Exec Dir Gene Upshaw: "We're not going to allow
anything without due process" (USA TODAY, 3/25).
Bernie Kosar has teamed with OH entrepreneur Thomas
Murdough to try to buy the new Browns franchise, according
to Becky Yerak of the Cleveland PLAIN DEALER. Kosar and
Murdough are "trying to put together a group of business
executives to buy the team." Currently, the group includes
only Murdough and Kosar. Murdough, when asked if he could
afford the franchise fee: "I'm encouraged by comments from
Paul Tagliabue that it will be a fair price. When you start
getting over $300 million, I question whether that's a fair
price" (Cleveland PLAIN-DEALER, 3/25). ESPN's John Clayton
reported on "a heated debate" among owners regarding the
Browns' expansion fee. Clayton said some "hardline owners
wish to go between $500 million and $1 billion. But others
knowledgeable with the process expect it to settle between"
$300M to $500M ("SportsCenter," 3/24). Tagliabue said
ownership could be in place by this summer: "That would be
ideal" (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 3/25). In Akron, Terry Pluto
puts Al Lerner and Richard Jacobs as the favorites to land
the team. He writes NFL owners "know" and "like" Lerner
(AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 3/25). In N.Y., George Vecsey calls
the NFL granting Cleveland an expansion team a "delightful
case of swift justice" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/25).
L.A. STORY: Going to 31 teams will lead to a new bye
week format. Each week will include one team out of action
and a team will have a bye in week one and week 17. In
L.A., T.J. Simers writes that "club officials are grumbling
already and the new schedule is a year away from being
released." Chargers Owner Alex Spanos: "We have to go to 32
teams." Bills Owner Ralph Wilson: "Let's face it, L.A. is
the prime candidate to become the 32nd team, if it just gets
a stadium." Simers: "But if the unbalanced schedule favors
Los Angeles' chances to force the expansion issue, Raiders
Owner Al Davis has maintained that nothing will get done in
Los Angeles without his permission." Davis: "[W]e do own
the L.A. opportunity for sure." Wilson: "The hell he does."
Simers: "Houston's chances of winning an expansion franchise
rest on only one thing: Los Angeles losing that
opportunity." But Simers writes that "could happen" since
public money is unavailable and an "owner conceivably will
have to put out more than" $200M for a stadium and then come
up with an expansion fee (L.A. TIMES, 3/25). Davis told USA
TODAY's Gordon Forbes that the NFL's Finance Committee
"forced the Raiders to abandon" the L.A. market and move to
Oakland in '95. Davis said that while he was in talks with
Hollywood Park, the league mandated that the Raiders share
the facility with a second team. Davis: "They drove me out.
They're going to have to adjudicate that and adjudicate that
there is an offset." Davis claims the NFL owes him $25M in
an "offset" fee to move to Oakland. Asked who would move
into the L.A. market, Davis said, "I don't know who it will
be. I don't know whether we'll be the team or not" (USA
TODAY, 3/25). CNBC's Bill Griffeth reported that Michael
Ovitz bought a stake in a "supermall" in Columbus, OH, and
will "be in charge of designing the mall's sports and
entertainment complex." Griffeth: "Ovitz may also have
bigger plans up his sleeve, with a proposal to the NFL to
build a football coliseum and shopping mall outside of Los
Angeles at Hollywood Park" ("The Edge," CNBC, 3/24).
The WPVA has "suspended play and is expected to file
for bankruptcy," according to Sharon Robb of the Ft.
Lauderdale SUN-SENTINEL. FL events scheduled for Deerfield
Beach, Fort Myers and Clearwater were cancelled, along with
events in Austin, TX, San Diego and Chicago. WPVA Tour Dir
Levalley Pattison: "The whole market for volleyball is
depressed right now. For some reason sponsors are not that
receptive. The crowds are great and TV ratings are good.
As far as sponsors -- nothing is out there." One investor,
San Diego-based Charles Jackson, withdrew his support of
seven events in '98, citing "difficulty in securing
television and sponsorships at such a late date." WPVA
officials are "working out long-range payment plans for
creditors," and several employees have not been paid. The
two-person pro tour was entering its 12th season and had
sanctioned 140 events since '87. Prize money had increased
from $48,500 to more than $600,000 (SUN-SENTINEL, 3/25).