January 31, 2013

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- A federal judge will hear oral arguments in about two months on requests to throw out lawsuits by thousands of former NFL players regarding concussions suffered while playing for the league.

U.S. Eastern District Judge Anita Brody in Philadelphia on Tuesday scheduled an April 9 hearing on motions to dismiss filed by the NFL Inc., NFL Properties Inc. and All American Sports Corp.

Players say they've developed dementia and Alzheimer's disease, or are worried about developing them.

They argue it's not a labor dispute that's governed by the collective bargaining agreement, but an issue that should be resolved through the courts.

The NFL has argued it didn't intentionally mislead the players and took steps to protect their health.

More than 100 lawsuits against the league are consolidated before Brody. And more than 3,500 former players have sued the NFL, alleging that not enough was done to inform them about the dangers of concussions and not enough is being done today to take care of them.

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January 31, 2013

Special to the NNPA

from the Washington Informer

 

The United States Playing Card Company (USPC), makers of Bicycle® Playing Cards, is proud to announce the launch of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum Playing Card Deck. Bicycle® Playing Cards has partnered with the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum by donating $0.15 per deck sold.

“The mission of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum is to help preserve the rich history of African American baseball and we are excited that Bicycle® has developed this deck to support our cause,” said Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. “With partnerships like this, we will be able to share this history with generations to come.”

Roy Gifford, USPC vice president of marketing added that the partnership with the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, “not only gave us access to the iconic logos and photos from the Negro Leagues archives to create a beautiful deck of cards, but more importantly it allowed us to support an organization who is protecting the amazing story of the Negro Baseball Leagues.”

To find out more online about Bicycle® and the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum visit us at www.bicyclecards.com, www.nlbm.com, www.facebook.com/bicyclecards, and www.facebook.com/NegroLeaguesBaseballMuseum.

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January 31, 2013

By Brian Mahoney, AP Basketball Writer

 

NEW YORK (AP) -- Executive director Billy Hunter has fired his daughter and daughter-in-law from the NBA players' association, less than two weeks after a review criticized his hiring practices.

In a letter to the union's special committee of players, dated Jan. 23, Hunter informed them that Robyn Hunter was to be let go as of Jan. 25. Megan Inaba will stay on through the All-Star break to help coordinate activities in Houston before leaving her job on Feb. 17.

"Hopefully this decision will alleviate any concerns raised by their employment," Hunter wrote. "These measures are being taken although the report noted that both of them were highly qualified, not overpaid, and were contributing members of the NBPA staff."

Hunter also states in the letter, obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press, that the NBPA will no longer work with Prim Capital, the banking firm that employs Hunter's son, Todd.

The letter was first reported by Bloomberg News.

The review by the firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP said Hunter's hiring of family and friends had "damaged the union." Though finding no evidence of illegal use of union funds, the report cited numerous conflicts of interests, noted that his contract was never properly approved and urged players to consider whether they wanted to remove him during their All-Star meeting.

"The appearance of favoritism has damaged the union. Mr. Hunter's pattern of involving friends and family in union business contributed to a deep rift among the NBPA staff," the report said, adding that Hunter's choices "created the appearance that he operated the union in part for the benefit of his family and friends."

Hunter wrote in the letter that an anti-nepotism policy had been adopted, and that other hiring improvements would be implemented.

"In my work for the NBPA, my priority has always been to promote the interests of the players," Hunter wrote. "Through the benefit of hindsight, as with any executive, there are always things that could have been done better. In that spirit, I regret that my long tenure with many successes on behalf of the players has been overshadowed by the appearance of conflicts of interest."

Union spokesman Dan Wasserman said Hunter had no comment on the letter or the dismissals.

Hunter has headed the union since 1996 and makes $3 million a year. The eight-month review gave players plenty of reason to consider his future with the organization, though Hunter has good relationships with many of them and has said he looks forward to continuing.

He is not nearly as popular with agents, who questioned his strategy during the lockout and sought a larger role. The New York Times on Tuesday printed text of a letter to his clients from Arn Tellem, one of the most powerful agents, urging Hunter's removal next month, and others will likely follow.

The review was sought in part by Derek Fisher, the union president who clashed with Hunter during and after the NBA lockout that lasted from July through November 2011. It began last April and included reviews of documents, financial records and NBPA emails, and interviews of witnesses.

Hunter wrote that he disagreed with certain aspects of the report but reiterated that he was pleased it found no evidence of criminal activity.

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January 31, 2013

By BRIAN MAHONEY

Associated Press

 

Even Dennis Rodman laughs at the idea.

“Kind of funny, huh?” he said.

It’s true, though. One of basketball's most outrageous personalities has written a book for kids.

The Hall of Famer’s book, “Dennis The Wild Bull,” came out Wednesday and fans will immediately recognize Rodman’s influence. The large red bull on the cover has flowing red hair, two nose rings, a tattoo and red stubble under his chin.

“They’ll see me, literally see me. They’ll say, ‘Wow, this is just like him,’” Rodman said in a phone interview.

And he deals with the same issues.

Rodman, known as much for his wacky looks and lifestyle off the court as his considerable success on it, said the purpose of the book is simple.

“More than anything, I just want little kids today just to understand, ain’t no matter what you do in life, be different, rich or poor man, guess what, it’s OK to be who you are pretty much and you’ll be accepted,” Rodman said.

Rodman already wrote books about his personal life — the wild nights as a player, relationships with Madonna and Carmen Electra, and everything that allowed him to be famous long after he finished winning five championships with Detroit and Chicago.

The author whose previous works include titles such as “Bad as I Wanna Be” and “I Should Be Dead by Now” chose a different audience this time. He said even now he is still recognized by children who never saw him play, and those are the ones he wanted to reach.

“For a guy like me to be very eccentric, to even go to extremes to write a children’s book with all the wild things I do and make it believable was pretty much incredible,” Rodman said.

Co-written with Dustin Warburton, the book tells the story of Dennis, a bull who is captured away from his family and forced to live with other bulls in a rodeo. Though he looks nothing like them, they come to accept him and he becomes friends with them.

“Once I got to know the other bulls, I liked them,” Rodman said. “I enjoyed their company and stuff like that, and they accepted me for who I am no matter how I look.”

Dennis becomes so close with them that when he plots his escape to return to his family, he makes sure his new friends can come with him. Dennis originally was to escape alone until Rodman decided to change the ending.

“That’s not really Dennis. Dennis thought it was so cool that these other bulls accepted him and he stayed loyal to them. He wanted to see his family but he wanted these other bulls to come along,” said Darren Prince, Rodman’s marketing agent. “Anybody that knows the real Dennis Rodman knows how loyal he is to anybody that he’s close with and Dennis didn’t like that part, so they tweaked it at the end.”

Rodman, ordered to pay $500,000 in back child support to his ex-wife last month, acknowledges a couple of his children on the cover, where two little bulls are pictured in front of Dennis.

The book is available on Rodman’s website, www.dennisrodman.com, and Amazon for $16. His web site also has information regarding upcoming book signings in the New York area and Chicago.

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January 24, 2013

By Tim Booth

AP Sports Writer

 

Nearly five years after their colors, banners and history were packed away into storage and their franchise relocated, the SuperSonics are one significant step closer to returning to Seattle.

And the Kings are on the edge of leaving Sacramento.

All that appears to stand in the way now is approval by NBA owners.

The Maloof family has agreed to sell the Kings to a Seattle group led by investor Chris Hansen, the league confirmed in a statement Monday morning. The deal is still pending a vote by the NBA Board of Governors.

A person familiar with the decision said that Hansen's group will buy 65 percent of the franchise, which is valued at $525 million, and move the team to Seattle and restore the SuperSonics name. The deal will cost the Hansen group a little more than $340 million. The Maloofs will have no stake in the team.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the deal was waiting approval.

The sale figure works off a total valuation of the franchise, which includes relocation fees. Hansen's group also is hoping to buy out other minority investors.

The Maloofs will get a $30 million non-refundable down payment by Feb. 1, according to the deal, the person said. They will still be allowed to receive other offers until the league approves the sale. The Kings sale price of $525 million would surpass the NBA record $450 million the Golden State Warriors sold for in 2010.

The plan by Hansen's group is to have the team play at least the next two seasons in KeyArena before moving into a new facility in downtown Seattle. The deadline for teams to apply for a move for next season is March 1. The office of Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn confirmed Monday it is already working with Hansen on an agreement for using KeyArena, including scheduling and short-term upgrades to the arena.

"While we are not at liberty to discuss the terms of the transaction or our plans for the franchise given the confidential nature of the agreement and NBA regulations regarding public comments during a pending transaction, we would just like to extend our sincerest compliments and gratitude toward the Maloof family," Hansen said in a statement. "Our negotiations with the family were handled with the utmost honor and professionalism and we hope to continue their legacy and be great stewards of this NBA franchise in the coming years and decades."

Hansen was not available for further comment.

Momentum was building toward a sale agreement after word of talks between Hansen and the Maloofs leaked nearly two weeks ago. Sacramento will get its chance to counter with Mayor Kevin Johnson already receiving permission from NBA Commissioner David Stern to present a counteroffer to league owners from buyers who would keep the Kings in Sacramento.

Johnson, a former NBA All-Star point guard, said in a statement that the city remained undeterred.

"Sacramento has proven that it is a strong NBA market with a fan base that year in and year out has demonstrated a commitment to the Kings by selling out 19 of 27 seasons in a top-20 market and owning two of the longest sellout streaks in NBA history," Johnson said.

Yet Johnson will be fighting an uphill challenge trying to pull together an ownership group in a small window of time while Seattle begins preparing for the return of the green and gold.

The SuperSonics became a historic footnote when owner Clay Bennett moved the franchise to Oklahoma City in 2008. It was the conclusion of a contentious two years of lawsuits, broken leases, negotiations and ultimately a settlement that allowed 41 years of pro basketball history in Seattle to be moved away.

While Seattle was excited about Monday's news, there was an air of caution as well, with many fans still stung about the Sonics previous departure not wanting to believe in their return until everything is signed and delivered. Others in Seattle have wanted an expansion franchise rather than taking a team from another city.

"It tore the hearts out of the city when the (team) left the first time and it's just wonderful news to get a team back," said Jerry Brown, who was at KeyArena Monday buying college basketball tickets. "I feel sorry for the people of Sacramento, they have good fans there, but we want our team back."

Ironically enough, it will be Bennett that has a say in whether Seattle returns to the NBA portfolio as the head of the league's relocation committee.

Caught in an awkward spot is the Kings' basketball team itself, some of whom have Seattle ties. Guard Isaiah Thomas grew up in Tacoma, Wash., and before the Kings played in New Orleans on Monday was already feeling the discomfort of being wedged between two cities.

"It's just a little weird (but) at the same time I love Sacramento, I love everything about it. Love the fans, the organization just brought me in with open arms. That's all I really know in this league is Sacramento," Thomas said. "But then I am from that area back home, it's just kind of a different situation. Whatever I say about Seattle, Sacramento fans might be mad at me and whatever I say about Sacramento, Seattle fans might be mad at me. I just love both cities.

"It's out of my control."

The saga of the Kings' future in California's Capitol city has dragged on for nearly three years and now faces its most daunting challenge.

Hansen, a Seattle native and San Francisco-based investor, reached agreement with local governments in Seattle last October on plans to build a $490 million NBA/NHL arena near the city's other stadiums, CenturyLink Field and Safeco Field. No construction will begin until all environmental reviews are completed and a team has been secured. The arena also faces a pair of lawsuits, including one from a dock workers union because the arena is being built close to port and industrial operations.

Hansen's group is expected to pitch in $290 million in private investment toward the arena, along with helping to pay for transportation improvements in the area around the stadiums. The remaining $200 million in public financing would be paid back with rent money and admissions taxes from the arena, and if that money falls short, Hansen would be responsible for making up the rest.

Other investors in the proposed arena include Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer and two members of the Nordstrom department store family.

"While there is more work ahead, this is a major step toward bringing the Sonics home," McGinn said.

Sacramento fans hope this is not the final chapter in their quest to save the Kings. Johnson has once already saved the Kings from relocation when he made a pitch to the Board of Governors and bought the city time to broker a deal that appeared to solve the team's arena woes. But the Maloofs backed out of that tentative $391 million deal for a new downtown venue with Sacramento last year.

Already, Johnson and other politicians have started wrangling for the Kings again.

California state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, a Sacramento Democrat, wrote a letter to state officials dated Tuesday — and released to several news outlets — asking them to detail how much money Ballmer's Microsoft company earns on state contracts.

"I cannot stand idly by while a prominent out-of-state company that has significantly profited from business with the State of California actively attempts to acquire and remove one of my State and region's leading private assets," he wrote in the letter to Fred Klass, director of the state Department of General Services.

Johnson said recently he's heard from various parties interested in trying to put together an ownership group that would keep the team in Sacramento, but only with a new arena. He is expected to unveil more about his plans as early as Tuesday.

"We have always appreciated and treasured our ownership of the Kings and have had a great admiration for the fans and our team members. We would also like to thank Chris Hansen for his professionalism during our negotiation. Chris will be a great steward for the franchise," Kings co-owner Gavin Maloof said in a statement on behalf of the family.

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