A HORSE OF ANOTHER DOLLAR
The sporting effects of President Nixon's wage-price freeze and floating dollar have reached all the way to New Zealand, to say nothing of the block thrown on players and owners in America's professional leagues.
Consider the case of Alan J. Leavitt, whose burning desire was to own an 8-year-old pacer named James. From his lavishly appointed apartment on New York's Fifth Avenue, Leavitt put through a telephone call to Ashburton, New Zealand, where James was up for auction. There Leavitt's agents relayed his bids to the auctioneer. At $18,000 New Zealand (at the time $16,071.43 U.S.), he got his horse, one which had gone the mile in 1:59[4/5]. But Leavitt won't know what James cost him until he learns what the devaluation rate will be—anywhere from 8% to, at the very worst, 15%. He figures the gelding might cost him as much as $30,000 U.S., including freight, duty, insurance and devaluation. Not to mention phone bills.
Then there is the syndicate of American breeders who bought, for about $2 million, the 10-year-old chestnut stallion Le Fabuleux, winner of the 1964 French Derby and sire of an extraordinary list of foremost French horses. The plan is for him to stand at stud at the Claiborne Farm in Lexington, Ky.
But the new owners were not bothered by the new 10% import charge. There never has been an import tax on breeding stock, else they would have had to lay out another $200,000.
The wage-price freeze has the National Hockey League in a curious position, since most of its players and three of its 14 teams ( Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver) are Canadian. It would seem obvious that players on the three teams are exempt from the freeze, but what about the rest—including ones like Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito, who are clearly deserving of wage boosts?
As of now the NHL players are continuing their annual salary negotiations as though the U.S. wage freeze never had been announced. Clarence Campbell, league president, and Alan Eagle-son, executive director of the NHL Players Association, have agreed that that is the only sensible approach until it is learned, at some time or other, what exemptions, if any, professional sports will get from the freeze.
Most speculation has been to the effect that athletes who signed their contracts before Aug. 15, when the freeze was announced, would get raises, and the others would have to be paid under 1970 provisions. There is also talk of giving retroactive raises—retroactive from the date the freeze is lifted to the date of signing.
But Dan Devine, coach of the Green Bay Packers, thinks it likely that all players without exception will be stuck with their 1970 salaries.
"The reason is that the new salaries being negotiated don't become operable until the first game, on Sept. 19," he explains. "They aren't getting paid at the new rate yet, and it seems to me that that might be an important point."