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Volume 24 No. 134

Leagues Governing Bodies

          The ABL completed its '97-98 expansion plans by naming
     Nashville as its tenth franchise.  The team will play its
     home games in the Municipal Auditorium, an 8,700-seat arena
     located in downtown Nashville (ABL).  Nashville joins
     Chicago as the league's newest markets, and in Chicago,
     Michael Rosenberg examined the ABL's "wish list" for the
     next few years, including broadcast network exposure and 
     expansion into the New York market (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 4/13).
          PLAYERS TAKING CONTROL? In Portland, Abby Haight
     criticized the league for trading "star" Natalie Williams
     from Portland to Long Beach, where she has family and
     friends, and not returning a player of like talent to the
     Power.  Haight wrote that the ABL "has put the likes and
     dislikes of players ahead of building the fan support and
     team stability necessary for a future" (OREGONIAN, 4/12).  

          The Atlantic League, an independent baseball league set
     to begin this May in the Northeast, "has persuaded five of
     the six cities on its roster to build new 5,000- to 6,000-
     seat ballparks almost entirely at the public expense,"
     according to Kirk Johnson of the N.Y. TIMES.  A total of
     $110M in public financing has been committed altogether "for
     teams that, with only weeks to go before opening day, still
     exist for the most part on paper."  Baseball "experts say
     that in a market where there is so much major and minor
     league baseball already, the Atlantic League's ambitions are
     testing the limit of baseball both as a recreational drawing
     card and a spur for economic revitalization."  The league,
     roughly the equivalent of Class AA, will have franchises in
     Atlantic City, Newark and Somerset, NJ; Lehigh Valley, PA;
     Bridgeport, CT; and Nashua, NH.  Former Wall Street bond
     trader Frank Boulton is league Chair and has "sought out
     cities" that couldn't get a NAPBL team because of their
     location and those that had public financing available for
     economic development and new stadiums (N.Y. TIMES, 4/10). 

          A federal court in N.Y. Thursday "found the NBA guilty
     of sex discrimination for denying" Sandra Ortiz-del Valle, a
     Manhattan high school physical education teacher, "a chance
     to become one of the league's referees," according to Peter
     May of the BOSTON GLOBE.  The U.S. District Court jury
     deliberated for two days before awarding nearly $8M to
     Ortiz-del Valle.  The NBA said it would appeal.  Ortiz-del
     Valle sued the NBA in the spring of '96 "after she was
     repeatedly told there was no position for her."  She had
     "extensive" refereeing experience in several pro-am leagues,
     in the USBL and as an official in a preseason camp with the
     Nets.  In the ruling, $7M of the $7.85M award was for
     punitive damages.  The jury also awarded Ortiz-del Valle
     $100,000 for lost wages and $750,000 for emotional distress
     (BOSTON GLOBE, 4/10).  In N.Y., Benjamin Weiser reported
     that the verdict "marks the first time the league has lost a
     discrimination case in court."  NBA Chief Legal Officer
     Jeffrey Mishkin: "Here is a finding that the N.B.A.
     discriminates against women in the hiring of officials, and
     we are the only league that has them" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/10).  
          MALE REFS BUY TIME? In S.F., Jorge Ortiz wrote the NBA
     "may have averted an immediate nightmare when several of the
     veteran referees currently under investigation by the IRS
     signed documents allowing them to work in the postseason and
     proceed with their cases afterward" (S.F. EXAMINER, 4/12). 

          MLB: For its 30 Opening Days, MLB drew 1,349,544 fans,
     for an average of 44,985 per game.  That was second only to
     the record set in '93 and was 158,459 more than the '97
     total of 1,191,085.  This season's average attendance was
     5.7% higher than last year's average of 42,566 (MLB).  MLB
     had 28 openers in '97 (THE DAILY).
          NOTES: The Knicks filed a protest yesterday, asking the
     league to reverse referee Bob Delaney's call on Sunday which
     ruled that Allan Houston's shot came after time expired in
     the Knicks' 82-81 loss to the Heat (N.Y. TIMES, 4/14).
     ...CART has acquired Pro-Motion Agency, Ltd., the company
     that owns and operates the KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Championship
     open-wheel racing series.  The series has 12 races in '98
     and is CART's second-series acquisition after purchasing the
     PPG Dayton Indy Lights Series (CART).

          The NHL "is considering filing a lawsuit" against
     Details magazine concerning an article that alleges three
     Russian players "have had longstanding ties with Russian
     gangsters," according to Rick Sadowski of the ROCKY MOUNTAIN
     NEWS.  The article, called "Power Play," claims that
     Avalanche C Valeri Kamensky, Red Wings D Slava Fetisov and
     Canucks' RW Pavel Bure "actively befriended the Russian mob,
     helping it to sink its roots deep in North American soil." 
     NHL execs "are upset" because the author, Robert Friedman,
     quotes the lead investigator into Congressional hearings on
     Russian mobsters and NHL players, Michael Bopp, as saying
     the investigation ended in '96 because the league "failed to
     cooperate."  NHL VP/Corporate Communications Bernadette
     Mansur said the league is "stunned at how ludicrous ...
     [and] blatantly inaccurate" the article is.  Mansur: "We're
     considering all of our (legal) avenues."  Mansur said Bopp
     specifically thanked league personnel for their assistance
     in the investigation.  The story appears in the May issue of
     Details Magazine (ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS, 4/11).

          With the WNBA set to begin its second season on June
     11, its players "are wondering whether they need to ask for
     more" and unionizing is one alternative that has "growing
     appeal," according to Lena Williams in a front-page feature
     in Sunday's N.Y. TIMES.  Players and agents say that under
     their WNBA deals, players "can be terminated at any time,
     cannot endorse products that compete with the league's 15
     sponsors, are not entitled to percentages from sales of team
     merchandise and receive health benefits only when they
     play."  Some players add that the language of the WNBA's
     contracts "is so ambiguous that it is unclear whether
     players are entitled to be paid if injured."  Others say
     that WNBA players "are in certain ways worse off financially
     than" ABL players, who receive a higher average salary and
     "receive better benefits."  So WNBA players are talking and
     "trying to figure out who might represent them and how to
     get what they want without hurting the league they fought so
     hard to create."  The NBPA said it would like to represent
     the women and "many" players feel it would be the "logical
     choice."  The Women's Coaches Association is "also lobbying
     for the job" along with a "handful" of sports agents.  But
     some players have "expressed reservations about joining
     ranks with the men" and feel they aren't concerned about the
     same issues.  League execs are "wary of the impact of a
     union."  WNBA President Val Ackerman admits unionization "is
     likely.  We accept its possibility.  But in some respects it
     does seem premature" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/12).