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WNBA, Union Differ on Negotiations

April 19, 2003

NEW YORK (AP) _ The WNBA and its players’ association had differing views of where they stood Saturday, one day after the union announced an agreement in principle on a new labor deal.

The union said the process had reached the stage of lawyers exchanging documents. The league, meanwhile, said negotiations were ongoing.

``Sometimes people agree to disagree. We can’t seem to agree that we agree,″ union spokesman Dan Wasserman said.

On Friday, the union said it accepted a five-year collective bargaining agreement, staving off the NBA’s threat to cancel the seventh season for the women’s league.

Play is scheduled to begin May 22; the WNBA called off a tryout camp and the draft last week.

``Documents are being written up, exchanged and reviewed so that a full agreement can be completed as soon as is practical,″ Wasserman said Saturday. ``This is similar to many other labor negotiations where the two sides reach an agreement in principle, pending full ratification and completion of a full agreement, which is taking place over the next several days.″

Reiterating its stance from Friday, though, the WNBA wouldn’t confirm that a deal is in place.

``We characterize it differently,″ league spokeswoman Traci Cook said. ``This is a very complex and complicated negotiation. There are a lot of details to be worked out. There has been progress. There will be people working on negotiations this weekend.″

Cook wouldn’t say whether the WNBA season is still in jeopardy.

``I can’t predict that,″ she said.

Wasserman was surprised the league would not admit to having a deal.

``The thing that is puzzling about them not acknowledging that we have an agreement in principle is that it flies in the face of everything they said in negotiations about the need to promote stability in the league in order to attract investors, sponsors, season-ticket holders,″ he said.

On Friday, WNBA president Val Ackerman issued a statement that negotiations would continue and that the draft would remain on hold until an agreement was signed.

The labor deal’s length was a major point of contention. The players wanted a shorter contract.

In a conference call early Friday, players voted for three years. But two hours later, they voted 56 percent to 44 percent to accept the league’s offer.

Two-time league MVP Sheryl Swoopes of the Houston Comets is disappointed with the new agreement.

``I’m happy to be playing. Happy with the deal? No,″ Swoopes told Houston television station KRIV on Friday. ``Obviously, it’s not necessarily what we wanted, but we want to play.″

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