BOYS ON THE SIDE: In Toronto, Tom Tebbutt reported that the ATP will announce this week "it is dropping its plan to have more combined men's and women's top-level tour events" (GLOBE & MAIL, 6/29). WTA players continue to draw the most notice at Wimbledon. In Raleigh, Caulton Tudor writes that "the world's most prestigious tennis tournament rapidly has become a ladies-before-gentlemen event of the first order. But it's not just Wimbledon. It's the entire sport, really" (NEWS & OBSERVER, 6/30). In L.A., Lisa Dillman wrote that "it is becoming obvious that female tennis players are attracting more attention than their male colleagues. ... What will truly be interesting in the future is how and if the teenagers evolve into leaders, on the equal-pay issue and other matters impacting the women's tour" (L.A. TIMES, 6/29). In DC, Jennifer Frey wrote under the header, "As The Men Face Break Point, Women Stars Grab Center Court" (WASHINGTON POST, 6/29)....In Tampa, H.A. Branham: "The question becomes how the men plan to turn things around, or at least begin to rival a competitor that once presented no competition" (TAMPA TRIBUNE, 6/29)....In N.Y., Phil Mushnick wrote, "Is there a major sporting event that has vanished from the forefront of the American public's consciousness faster than Wimbledon?" (N.Y. POST, 6/29). NOTES: The L.A. Times reported that the WNBA's Lynette Woodard and ESPN women's basketball commentator Mimi Griffin are candidates to head the WNBA players union. But the union "is slow to develop in the league's second season" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 6/30)....ABL players and their agents "are wondering about the rumor" that Michael Jordan "will buy the ABL's Chicago expansion franchise," according to Earl Gustkey of the L.A. TIMES. ABL CEO Gary Cavalli "wouldn't comment," other than saying that Jordan's involvement would be an "exciting possibility." Jordan was not available for comment (L.A. TIMES, 6/30).
Leagues Governing Bodies
MLB management sources "confirmed Monday that a special executive session has been called for July 9 in Chicago during which Bud Selig" will be named MLB commissioner "on a permanent basis," according to Tom Haudricourt of the MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL. Selig confirmed that the meeting had been called, but he would not confirm that he had officially decided to accept the job. A three-fourths vote of the 30 MLB clubs is required for election, with no more than five clubs in either league objecting. Only the White Sox, Cubs and Giants have been reported to object to Selig's election (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 6/30). LET'S PLAY TWO! In N.Y., Murray Chass reports that today is the designated date for MLB to submit next year's schedule to the MLBPA for its approval, but yesterday MLB asked for and received a two-week extension. Chass reports that "the two sides should have little trouble agreeing on an official schedule." Reports have next year's interleague schedule for the East divisions including home-and-home series between the Yankees-Mets; Blue Jays-Expos; Devil Rays - Marlins; Orioles-Phillies; and Braves-Red Sox (N.Y. TIMES, 6/30). Yankees Owner George Steinbrenner said playing the Mets twice next year is not a "a good idea," calling it "overkill, plain and simple" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 6/30).
The NBA's "nuclear summer has begun" as Commissioner David Stern announced yesterday the league will lock out its players beginning midnight Tuesday, according to David Moore of the DALLAS MORNING NEWS. The recommendation of the league's nine-man labor relations committee was "unanimous" and the "only action" the owners needed to void the final three years of the current CBA. Moore writes the owners' decision "was driven by economics" and there are "strong indications this impasse is more complex and contentious" than previous disputes between the league and its union (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 6/30). Stern: "We can't afford to play the season under the current system. ... The final numbers aren't in, but for the first time, as a whole, we believe the league was actually unprofitable last season." Stern, asked if the lockout could threaten the start of the season: "Yes, that is fair and accurate. Unfortunately, there are a number of clubs that would do better not operating than actually operating. That's something the players don't yet understand." NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter said in a statement, "Unfortunately, the owners continue to demand unprecedented concessions. Until the owners abandon their posture of seeking one-sided concession bargaining and show some willingness to compromise, it is difficult to expect any progress" (Greg Logan, NEWSDAY, 6/30). In S.F., David Steele calls it a "mild surprise" that the league "did not even make a pretense of pushing negotiations" with the NBPA until the last moment, "announcing its intentions a good 32 hours before" the CBA was to expire. Stern: "We were in touch with the union. ... But we really had nothing to talk about" (David Steele, S.F. CHRONICLE, 6/30). WHAT IT MEANS: In N.Y., Mike Wise reports that while league business will effectively be stopped, previously- scheduled charity games "were spared." Players rehabilitating injuries will be forced to work out arrangements through the team to be treated privately (N.Y. TIMES, 6/30). In Boston, Peter May reports that teams will "forward a player's mail, and the league won't prevent players and management from co-mingling in social situations, such as weddings" (BOSTON GLOBE, 6/30). USA TODAY's Roscoe Nance: "For the average fan, the lockout won't have many visible effects" (USA TODAY, 6/30). NEXT MOVE: NBA Deputy Commissioner Russ Granik said the Larry Bird exception continues to be the sticking point in negotiations. Granik: "At our last meeting, the union said to us that unless the owners are prepared to maintain the Larry Bird exception they have nothing further to talk about" (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 6/30). Granik: "We tried not to focus on the Bird exception as such, but we need an agreement that is not open-ended. There may be one whereby we keep 'Bird,' or some elements of it" (DENVER POST, 6/30). In Chicago, Lacy Banks reports the owners want to replace the Bird exception with a new rule allowing high-profile, 10-year vets to be grandfathered into the exception. The NBPA's Hunter: "But that's only for this year. It's a one- shot deal." Granik has proposed that a player whose contract has expired will be able to re-sign for his old deal with a 5% increase. Teams will be allowed to go "over the cap" in signing players with the 5% increase (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 6/30). Yesterday, Stern mentioned three economic models the league would consider: Decide on a fair share for the players and write a check to the union to distribute as it wishes; agree on a specific percentage of the gross, and if salaries exceed that percentage, the owners would not be responsible; or a hard cap (NEWSDAY, 6/30). Hunter: "Their position is no hard cap, no deal. ... For lack of a better word, our only position on that is to go to war" (USA TODAY, 6/30). More Hunter: "They don't want the top player on any team to make more than $10 million a year. Nobody restricts how much money they can make. ... When they say, 'Take it or leave it,' we obviously left it ... and there may have to be some bloodletting" (WASHINGTON POST, 6/30). Granik said the possibility of bringing in a mediator is an option. The two sides are "not expected to meet" until after the union meets in Hawaii from July 6-12 (N.Y. TIMES, 6/30). ESPN's David Aldridge reported it "will be a couple of months before any serious negotiating gets done" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 6/29). TV MONEY: NBA owners will receive their TV rights fee from Turner and NBC even if the regular-season games are canceled. The payments must be returned in the fourth and final season of the TV deal, "depending on the number of telecasts missed." Stern: "That money has to be repaid to the networks, so it's not like extra money given to teams. It was arranged so our teams would be in a position to survive the season without dire economic consequences in the short term" (Barry Jackson, MIAMI HERALD, 6/30). In Denver, Mike Monroe puts the rights fee for each team at $23M (DENVER POST, 6/30). NBPA counsel Jeffrey Kessler said, "What's really driving this [the lockout and CBA reopening] is that (the owners would) like to keep more of the TV deal than they kept under the old deal" (WASHINGTON POST, 6/30). In N.Y., former NBPA President Buck Williams tells Kevin Kernan that he believes CBS and Fox are contemplating a new league: "There's not a better time" (N.Y. POST, 6/30). HOW IT PLAYED: The lockout was the subject of front- page stories in USA Today, the N.Y. Post and the Houston Chronicle. ESPN's "SportsCenter" led its early and late editions last night with the owners' declaration.
NBA Commissioner David Stern "remains a power, perhaps the last powerful commissioner," according to Mark Heisler of the L.A. TIMES, who writes that a lockout "will be a test for him." Heisler: "Sources suggest that he's still riding tall in the saddle, his owners falling in line behind him, even if some don't like the idea" (L.A. TIMES, 6/30). Suns President Jerry Colangelo: "I would say that the owners are prepared to do what's necessary to correct the system because the system doesn't work" (AZ REPUBLIC, 6/30). DO OWNERS HAVE THE EDGE: In Denver, Mike Littwin calls the lockout "a huge gamble" for Stern. Littwin: "Who will blink? ... [H]ow many paychecks do the other multimillionaires want to miss? And although the owners don't want to lose any games, how important exactly are NBA games in November? I give the owners the slight edge. ... The NBA union is untested" (ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS, 6/30). In Philadelphia, Rich Hofman writes that the NBA "has all the leverage" and that the players "will be lucky to get out of this thing with their union intact" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 6/30). In Toronto, Craig Daniels writes that the union "will fight to the bitter end. Or until their membership starts missing [paychecks]" (TORONTO SUN, 6/30). NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter: "These guys will not submit, surrender or cave in as they did, under past history, if they faced losing a paycheck" (WASHINGTON POST, 6/30). On CBS SportsLine, Andy Jasner calls the players "flat-out greedy" (CBS SportsLine, 6/30). But in Philadelphia, Mike Bruton: "If the NBA owners hadn't blinked three years ago under the steely stare of a players' union mutiny, we wouldn't be on the verge of a work stoppage for the coming season" (PHILA. INQUIRER, 6/30). In N.Y., Ian O'Connor predicts an agreement in late October as the "best-case scenario," and calls the NBA's statement of unprofitablity a "hard-to-believe claim" (DAILY NEWS, 6/30). COULD PLAYERS BREAK? ESPN's David Aldridge reported that while the players have saved some money from their licensing pool, he believes it will be "very difficult ... for players to withstand a very long and prolongated lockout." Aldridge: "I'm sure that as we go into August and maybe September and there hasn't been a deal done yet, the pressure is going to really start to mount inside, from a players' standpoint, to try and make a deal that works" (ESPN, 6/30). But agent Bill Strickland said, "I get a strong sense that the players have an absolute resolve about not acting hastily this time" (STAR-LEDGER, 6/30). Agent Arn Tellem said that most players "understand a lot is at stake and that they have to show solidarity, from stars to role players to guys at the end of the bench" (AP, 6/30). Hunter: "They [the NBA] may have miscalculated this time. If they realize the players are in for the long haul, then they may become softer in their demands" (N.Y. TIMES, 6/30). Agent Marc Fleisher said he "wouldn't be surprised" if the lockout went until October. Agent Joel Bell: "I expect this to last for at least the summer" (PHILA. DAILY NEWS, 6/30). TOUGH TALK: In NJ, Dave D'Alessandro writes the "gloves have come off, the rhetoric is about to begin" (Newark STAR- LEDGER, 6/30). Hunter: "[T]he league is profitable, the commissioner and the deputy commissioner are the highest paid in professional sports, the number of league employees is growing and the average salary of coaches is higher than that of the players. So why are things so bad?" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 6/30). Stern: "What we're hearing is, 'Whatever we have, we have, and anything else is the owners' problem.' Well, that can't be" (ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS, 6/30). In N.Y., Kevin Kernan writes that fans "don't care" about basketball in the summer, but the "problem is, they may not care come November" (N.Y. POST, 6/30). A N.Y. TIMES editorial states "this could be a confrontation in which no one blinks until a large part of the season -- or even all of it -- has been canceled" (N.Y. TIMES, 6/30).
NASCAR President Bill France, Jr. was interviewed by Tom Groeschen of the CINCINNATI ENQUIRER. France, on which U.S. markets remain open for NASCAR: "The Northwest is an area we're really not in, as far as Winston Cup racing. We are up there, with our truck series, but the weather up there ... it rains a lot." France, on how the Indy Car split has affected NASCAR's popularity: "We were running pretty good before they split. I don't attribute our success and popularity to their split. We've probably moved a little faster because of it, but we were well on our way, on our own" (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 6/29). RACING NOTES: IMS President Tony George continues to seek an Formula One race for the Speedway. F-1 has not raced in the U.S. since '91, and George is competing with bids from San Francisco, Las Vegas and Atlanta. Sanctioning fees are estimated at $10M-$15M, which includes travel expenses for participants (INDIANAPOLIS STAR-NEWS, 6/28)....New Hampshire Int'l Speedway owner Bob Bahre said that he has not had any talks with IRL officials about extending the facility's contract to host the New England 200. Bahre has lost money for three years "because of low attendance," and Sunday's crowd was estimated at 20,000. Bahre estimated that he stood to lose "about" $700,000 (BOSTON GLOBE, 6/29).