AL President Dr. Gene Budig fined and suspended five
Yankees and Orioles players for their part in the fight
Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium. Orioles P Armando Benitez
was suspended for eight games; Yankees P Graeme Lloyd and OF
Darryl Strawberry for three games each; and O's P Alan Mills
and Yanks P Jeff Nelson for two games each (AL). Benitez
and the Yankees players "waived their right to appeal,"
while O's officials said Mills "will make a decision about
whether to appeal later" (WASHINGTON POST, 5/21).
REAX: In N.Y., Joel Sherman criticizes the length of
the suspensions and writes that Budig "continues to have a
blind spot for how important perception is in a sport that
is constantly losing that battle," adding that it was "par
for the course for him not to go the 10 miles from his
midtown office to [Yankee] Stadium to be on hand last night"
(N.Y. POST, 5/21). On L.I., Shaun Powell: "This wasn't a
beanball from Budig, this was a Beanie Baby. ... A month off
the bench would have gotten an entire league's attention
about the whole notion of beanballs" (NEWSDAY, 5/21).
Yankees Owner George Steinbrenner, on Benitez's eight-game
suspension: "A month's suspension should have been the least
he should have gotten" (HARTFORD COURANT, 5/21). In N.Y.,
Dave Anderson writes that as MLB "is still searching for a
commissioner, it needs someone to rule on fines and
suspensions in both leagues instead" of the league
presidents (N.Y. TIMES, 5/21). Also in N.Y., John Harper
credit Budig's ruling, calling it "the first properly severe
suspension that Budig has handed down" (DAILY NEWS, 5/21).
LEAVING THE BENCH: MLBPA Associate General Counsel Gene
Orza, on the suggestion that leaving the dugout/bullpen be
an automatic suspension: "It can't be in our sport because
there's only one player on the field against nine" (N.Y.
TIMES, 5/21). On ESPN SportsZone, Rob Neyer agrees with the
dugout aspect, but writes that what is realistic "is a rule
barring anyone from leaving the bullpen" (SportsZone, 5/21).
At the NFL owners meetings in FL, "most members" of the
NFL Coaches Association (NFLCA) "quietly took part in a
protest" before a coaching symposium was set to begin,
according to Mike Freeman of the N.Y. TIMES. The group of
"about" 50 to 60 coaches, "upset with issues they say
include race and age discrimination, as well as pension plan
issues, staged a non-confrontational protest that could
signal future labor unrest." The members entered the
symposium 15 minutes late on Wednesday morning "to show the
league that coaches, particularly assistants, are unified
and prepared to take on the league." Among the coaches were
Eagles head coach Ray Rhodes and former Raiders head coach
Art Shell. Also present was NFLCA Founder William Wallen,
who said that 94% of the NFL's assistants are association
members. But NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said the
protest "bordered on silliness because we're well aware of
their issues." Tagliabue: "We've been talking to them; more
than talking to them, we've changed a number of policies."
He cited changes in the league's health insurance plan (N.Y.
TIMES, 5/21). In DC, Leonard Shapiro writes that the NFLCA
members now face "a more important question: What next?"
Sources say the NFLCA "will not register as a union, but
that a class-action lawsuit charging the NFL with age and
race discrimination is being considered." While coaches
acknowledged the health insurance changes, they said other
issues "have not been addressed" (WASHINGTON POST, 5/21).
OTHER LEAGUE NOTES: NFL owners adopted a resolution to
allow NFL teams to own AFL teams within their own markets.
...Kansas City's proposal to be considered to host the 40th
Super Bowl in 2006 was rejected (USA TODAY, 5/21)....NFLPA
Exec Dir Gene Upshaw said the league should make the new
Browns franchise competitive as quickly as it can: "We are
not going to punish an expansion team for being an expansion
team. It's not fair to the players, it's not fair to the
city, it's not fair to the new owners, and it's not fair to
the league" (BEACON JOURNAL, 5/21). Panthers Owner Jerry
Richardson: "We'll resolve it in a way that will give them a
fair chance to compete. Ours worked well" (SUN-SENTINEL,
5/21)....Of the 52,000 PSLs sold for the new Browns
franchise, about 10,000 are left, most of which cost $250 or
$500 (BEACON JOURNAL, 5/21)....In San Jose, Sam Farmer
writes that during the meetings, NFL owners "tiptoed oh so
close to the issues troubling the 49ers, yet never treading
on that delicate ground." Tagliabue, on the fate of the
team's $525M stadium/mall complex: "I really haven't spent
enough time on it recently to feel comfortable that what I
would say would even be accurate" (MERCURY NEWS, 5/21).
Warriors G Latrell Sprewell sued the Warriors and the
NBA yesterday, "seeking lost wages and damages stemming from
what his lawyers allege as excessive discipline for
Sprewell's attack" on coach P.J. Carlesimo last December,
according to Jesse Barkin of the SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS. The
suit, filed in U.S. District Court, alleges the team and
league "made several transgressions -- including a violation
of Sprewell's civil rights, racial discrimination and
violation of antitrust and unfair business practices
statutes at the federal and state level." Sprewell is
"seeking as much" as $30M, which takes into account lost
wages of $6.4M, plus court costs, legal fees and damages
(S.J. MERCURY NEWS, 5/21). The suit also states that the
league "demonized Sprewell with a 'massive' public-relations
campaign that made him a scapegoat." Also named in the suit
were parties "X, Y, and Z," which will be fill-ins for
potential defendants added later. Sprewell was not present
at the press conference, but is scheduled to make a public
comment "in the near future," according to his legal
advisor, Robert Gist. In S.F., C.W. Nevius writes that the
"breadth and the scope of the suit had many observers
raising their eyebrows, but few jumped on the bandwagon."
The NBPA issued a statement that it "has not endorsed this
lawsuit and has advised Mr. Sprewell's attorney against
bringing this action" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 5/21). In a
statement, NBA Exec VP & Chief Legal Officer Jeffrey Mishkin
said, "This is a poorly disguised attempt by Mr. Sprewell's
new attorneys to reargue claims that have already been
rejected and put to rest by the arbitrator" (NBA).
TIME FOR WAPNER: SI legal analyst Lester Munson said
that Sprewell "is going to go 0-for-4 in this case. His
lawyers were sitting there at the press conference talking
about punitive damages, treble damages, double jeopardy.
They misused almost all of these legal terms. I think the
outcome here is going to be that the NBA will not only win
this case early but also Latrell Sprewell will end up paying
the NBA's attorney's fees for getting this case dismissed"
("Sports Tonight," CNN, 5/20). In S.F., C.W. Nevius writes
that Sprewell's suit is "about revenge" and has "no chance."
Nevius: "This is a long longshot, and a play that a lot of
major law firms wouldn't even begin to touch" (S.F.
CHRONICLE, 5/21). In Denver, Mark Kiszla writes Sprewell's
suit is an example of the "sad tale of a professional sports
league dying slowly at the hands of millionaires who are
above the law. .... Sprewell isn't killing the NBA's
integrity. He's just here to bury it" (DENVER POST, 5/21).
In related news, George magazine named Sprewell one its 20
most fascinating men in politics, saying he "finally set the
bar for what the American public will tolerate from the
modern pro athlete" (N.Y. POST, 5/21).
PLAYERS WARNED TO CLEAN UP: In Seattle, Steve Kelley,
under the header, "NBA Millionaires Continue To Act Anything
But Civil," wrote, "Do the players really think the public
is going to be on their side if owners follow through with
their threat of a lockout?" (SEATTLE TIMES, 5/20).