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The WNBA’s Indiana Fever Are Writing Women’s Basketball’s Next Chapter

Tamika Catchings is a 6’1” women’s basketball player who is thankful for the opportunity to play professional sports.

What does Title IX mean to Catchings?

Without it she knows that she wouldn’t be a pioneer in the WNBA with post playing career dreams of being an ambassador for the league and a general manager.

Catchings grew up watching her father, Harvey Catchings, compete in the NBA. Initially, her participation in sports was all in the family, but once her confidence and talent exploded she recognized that playing at the collegiate level was in her future.

Catchings was in the 8th grade when she saw legendary University of Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Head Summitt for the first time.

“I remember I was flipping through the channels and all of a sudden the screen just had her eyes,” said Catchings. “For the TV to capture that I was pulled in. I started watching her on the sidelines and I could tell that she really cared about her team. Even for me in the 8th I recognized that if I ever had the opportunity to play for her it would be the most amazing thing.”

Indeed Catchings became a Lady Vol and under Summitt’s guidance she was selected as a four-time Kodak All-American and won an NCAA National Championship.

Many wonder where women’s basketball would be without Summitt. Maybe the question should be, “Where would it be without Lin Dunn?”

Dunn is a women’s basketball pioneer who will proudly tell you that she is 25 years older than Title IX. She remembers when women didn’t have any resources, and growing up in Alabama it was against the law for girls to play sports. Eventually, her family moved to Tennessee and her new community embraced girl’s basketball. Dunn played two seasons in high school, but her playing career was cut short when she enrolled at the University of Tennessee – Martin and learned once again that women were basketball outsiders.

“I drove them crazy the four years that I was at UT Martin to start a women’s basketball team,” said Dunn. “I was relentless in my desire for there to be a team. I guess they like to give me credit because the year after I graduated was the first year that they had a team. And that was the year that Pat Head Summitt was a freshman.”

Yes, Dunn’s perseverance paved the way for Summitt’s opportunity to play collegiate women’s basketball. Without Dunn there wouldn’t be Summitt, and without Summitt there wouldn’t be Catchings.

Today Dunn’s and Catchings’ paths have intersected once again, this time in the WNBA. Dunn is the head coach of the Indiana Fever and Catchings is its MVP forward. Together they are building a business, striving to win a WNBA championship, and writing women’s basketball’s next chapter.

Good Night Sports Fans, 

Alana 

 

How Billy Hunter Brought Labor Peace To The NBA Players Association

Did you follow the 2011 NBA lockout and feel like you were witnessing a brutal chess match? What moves would the league make and how would players counter?

Once the lockout ended and both sides held their ceremonial press conference I still wanted to learn more; what really happened during the second longest labor battle in NBA history?

Earlier this month I had the unique opportunity to hear answers to everyone’s burning questions while listening to the NBA Players Association Executive Director, G. William “Billy” Hunter, address the Mount Morris Community Association in Harlem, New York.

In the intimate setting of the Harlem Branch Public Library’s auditorium, Hunter talked candidly about his life as a collegiate and professional athlete, career as an attorney, and his role as the leader of the NBAPA.

Here’s what Hunter had to say…

The Early Years

Hunter has been leading athletes since his college football days at Syracuse University at a time when he acknowledges it was “important for athletes to stand up and make a statement.”

Going into his junior year, the team was scheduled to play southern schools that had segregated seating in their stadiums. He initiated a petition stating that the players refused to play unless the seating was integrated. Not only did he convince his teammates and student-athletes from other sports to sign the petition, but his efforts garnered the attention of the Syracuse administration. Once it was determined that he was an influential athlete, he was elevated to team captain for his remaining two seasons.

Following his collegiate career, he entered the NFL as a free agent earning $20,000 per season. After stints with the Washington Redskins, Baltimore Colts, and Miami Dolphins, Hunter earned his Juris Doctor degree from Howard University.

Hunter’s legal career has included serving as a prosecutor in the Alameda County District Attorney’s office, Chief-Assistant in the San Francisco District Attorney’s office, and an appointment as United States Attorney for the Northern District of California. There’s no question that Hunter’s tenure as an athlete and federal prosecutor prepared him for the day that the NBAPA came calling in 1996.

The NBAPA and Collective Bargaining Agreements

During Hunter’s 16 years at the helm of the NBPA, he has negotiated three collective bargaining agreements. The first in 1998 where there was a seven-month lockout, the second in 2005, and the most recent in 2011 that ended after a five-month labor battle.

Hunter notes, “Of the three collective bargaining deals that were negotiated, this was the most difficult, most stressful and taxing.” And he added that a lot of it has to do with being a victim of his own success.

Under the previous CBA the players were receiving 57% of Basketball Related Income, which Hunter explained is not 57% of every dollar that the league earns. He clarified that the players were not getting the gross, which was widely reported. Instead $600 million is deducted off the top for expense related revenues and then there is a split after that.

Hunter explained that the league was demanding that the players roll back from 57% to 39%. This reduction would mean $950 million cut per season. And according to Hunter, “There was no way we would take a $950 million cut.”

Hunter added that the deal they ended up cutting, even though they rolled back six percentage points, because of the growth and the revenues are much larger the players are now getting a smaller percentage of a larger pot.

“Under the last deal the players’ salaries grew collectively at about $65-70 million per year and under the current deal the salaries will still grow at about $100 million per year collectively. The idea is that by the sixth year of this deal the average salary should be up around $7 million where it’s currently at $5.6 – 5.7 million.”

The 2011 Lockout and its Critics

When asked about the criticism that he faced during the lockout, Hunter stated, “There’s no question that I took a lot of hits. There aren’t many blacks in leadership positions especially in sports. I don’t expect it to be easy and nobody ever told me that it would be. Fortunate enough for me the kind of experience I’ve had prepared me for this.”

He went on to say, “In my case it’s all about doing the job and it’s not about me; that’s the problem when you get too far in front and it becomes you then you have a problem. I think the players know with me it’s all about the relationship with the players; they know, trust and respect me. That’s why we were able to do what we did.”

“I’m sure the owner’s didn’t appreciate the stance that I took and a lot of people didn’t think I would do the things that I did. I think as the deal goes on it will turn out to be a lot better than people portray,” said Hunter.

Disclaiming Union Interest and Attorney David Boies

Hunter explained that up until 1995 you didn’t have to dissolve a union in order to sue an employer in federal court and assert antitrust rights. In 1995, it was ruled that unions had to decertify and you couldn’t be a union and sue. Once you decertify then the question is recertification; if it works and convinces the owners to come to the table – great, but if it doesn’t you’re in trouble.

“We are being pressured to decertify in July and I am saying no way we haven’t negotiated to the impasse so we are going to continue to negotiate,” he said.

Hunter shared that the agents were saying the only leverage that he had was decertification, which meant to dissolve the union. They thought there’s no way that the players could withstand and hang as long as the owners because the owners’ wealth and sooner or later they would break the players.

“We knew that another issue to get over was ‘sham decertification.’ You just can’t decertify because you’re trying to leverage management, and if you’re doing it for that purpose it is illegal and the court will look through it.”

Hunter and the players opted for federal mediation, which didn’t work; and they filed an action before the National Labor Relations Board, but the matter was held up while federal appointments were still being made.

Eventually, Commissioner Stern issued the take it or leave ultimatum and that meant the negotiations were over. Hunter explained that rather than decertifying they disclaimed, because decertifying means that your union is barred by law from reconstituting for at least 12 months.

Hunter admits that he surprised everyone when he brought in attorney David Boise, and many were wondering how he did that.

Hunter told the story of meeting with a legal colleague who he hadn’t seen in years and offered to call Boies to see if he was available and interested to join the civil case. Hunter acknowledged that he thought of Boise, but he knew that he most recently represented the NFL owners during their civil litigation.

After a series of secret meetings, Hunter recalls Boies saying that he had been following the labor situation and he thought it was unfair situation, they have all of the weapons and you need me to help level the playing field. “When Boies came into the case it made a difference,” added Hunter.

The Next Chapter

Hunter stated that he has never given any thought to his legacy as the NBAPA executive director; he said that he always focuses on real time.

Good Night Sports Fans, 

Alana 

What A Difference A Year Makes

Today is the one year anniversary of my Achilles Tendon injury. I played competitive sports for years, and I never suffered anything other than a few bumps and bruises. Finally, one day I decided to play a little pick-up basketball and then I heard the unthinkable – a pop in the back of my foot.

After swelling and three doctor’s visits later I found out that my pick-up bball days were done (at least for awhile) and I would need surgery. The first surgeon that I met with was just that – a surgeon. I left his office even more scared than when I entered. After that day I decided that I could find a surgeon who was talented and had a the kindness that I needed. Then I met Arthur Manoli.

Dr. Manoli and his staff guided me through the process and treated me and my family with patience and kindness. Later I found out that Dr. Manoli is a world renowned surgeon who performs surgeries on professional NBA athletes.

Once I had my surgery, I spent three weeks off of my feet. During this time I was encouraged by my sister to productively use my time off. I took her suggestion to heart and started blogging for Forbes.com. Well from there my entire world took off and I consciously decided that the injury would be the best thing that ever happened to me…and it was!

Since then I’ve written 18 stories for Forbes. Covered the WNBA All-Star Game, WNBA Playoffs, and WNBA Finals. Interviewed the WNBA President and three owners.

And while I was off of my feet, I learned that I’m truly blessed (health insurance is awesome) and my family/community really care about me.

Long story short, my entire world took off and I am such a better person for it!

Here’s my foot journey from beginning to end! … Continue reading

Reflections of 2010…

There are only 4 hours remaining in 2010! This year has gone by sooooo fast. I still can’t believe that I managed to get this blog up and rolling. Believe me this was NOT on my 2010 to do list. But I have to say I am so happy that I started www.iwanttobeanowner.com. I have to admit I am still a rookie blogger, and I am still trying to figure out how to get more traffic to this site. In the meantime I am going to enjoy this accomplishment and wait ’til next year (tomorrow) to figure out my 2011 game plan.

But before I go…here’s a quick look down memory lane of some 2010′s hottest sports headlines.

1. LeBron’s “The Decision” (need I say more)
2. 2010 Olympics in Vancover – Canada wins the gold on its home ice
3. Who Dat Nation wins the Super Bowl – Drew Brees becomes a Saint (jk)
4. Butler Bulldogs almost won the 2010 NCAA National Championship in the Hooiser state (oh so close)
5. UConn women’s basketball team sets a 90 game win streak record – Surpasses John Wooden’s UCLA team (please don’t compare Geno and John – two different coaches and two different eras)
6. Giants win the pennant
7. LA Lakers win the title
(again), and Celtics lose it in the end
8. Michael Vick returns to the NFL in MVP form
9. Natalie Randolph becomes the first female to coach a high school football team - I want to see more barriers broken in 2011
10. Brett Favre gets exposed (not in a good way) – Is this the end of the road?
11. Jamaican Dogsled team completes the Alaskan Iditarod
12. Tiger Woods gets exposed (again, not in a good way) – Will Tiger return to the glory days in 2011?
13. Cam Newton wins the Heisman (and avoids being declared ineligible) Can you say NFL superstar?
14. Nancy Lieberman becomes the first woman to be the head coach of a men’s professional sports team (next stop the NBA) 
Are we finally ready for women in NCAA football and the NFL? 
15. South Africa hosted the World Cup – I can’t wait until Africa hosts the Olympics!
16. I Want to Be An Owner is launched! — And the Dream of professional sports ownership continues in 2011!!!

Goodbye 2010! Thanks for the memories!

Good Night Sports Fans & Happy New Year!

Alana

I Want To Be An Owner…

Finally, the day has come that I am taking my blog live. It has been a labor of love the past several months. For those of you that don’t know I am on a quest to become an owner of a professional sports franchise (See My Story in About Alana for the background details). I would love to be an owner in the NBA, WNBA, NFL, or MLB. Essentially, I want to combine my entrepreneurial spirit along with my love of sports. I decided that until I reach my goal I will blog about it. This blog will allow me to keep my goal and dream alive. As long as www.iwanttobeanowner.com is live, my dream will stay alive right along with it.

Also, I really enjoy talking about sports, and I think I have a unique perspective that others will enjoy reading about. I plan to blog about current events - especially as it relates to ownership/management. I did a little a blog research before starting mine and I found that there are plenty of sites out there that discuss the athletes, but I have yet to come across any sites that specifically digest sports ownership. I will discuss decisions that owners have made, should make, or will make. And I will add my two cents by describing what I would do or would have done if I was in their position. I also hope to have a few interviews here and there featuring current owners or front-office management (My interview wish list will be coming soon).  Last but not least, some of the best blogs out there have reader participation. So please leave comments and tell me what you think – there’s no me without you.

A couple of more things before I go…I want to thank several special people that made this blog possible. My family has been very supportive along the way – especially Ed, my big bro. When I first told him that I wanted to blog about sports ownership he gave me the two thumbs up. While I hoped that he would ghost write it for me, for those of you that don’t know he’s an amazing writer. He did, however, suggest the title. I have to admit I wasn’t sold on it at first. But after watching a television interview featuring Bob Beaudine, Sports & Entertainment Search Executive and author of The Power of Who, it became clear to me that this was the perfect title. I realized that I shouldn’t feel the need to disguise what I want, sugar coat it, or hope that others will get what I am trying to say without me really saying it. Ask for what you want! In the end this was the one and only title to select.

Another special thank you goes to my web designer Nicki from In the Designs. Nicki is an up-and-coming designer and is extremely talented. Her prices are very reasonable and the finish product is amazing. I am soooo glad that I decided to hire In the Designs to put this all together.

So without further ado I present to you….. I Want To Be An Owner.

Game time!

Alana

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