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Both baseball and boxing find themselves under fire on Capitol Hill. After weathering periodic halfhearted threats in Congress to repeal baseball's antitrust exemption, the game's brass had cause for unease going into a hearing scheduled for this week that is to be presided over by Texas Democrat Jack Brooks, the powerful chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. Many members of Congress have expressed displeasure with the owners' firing of commissioner Fay Vincent and their failure to replace him, their confrontational labor-relations tactics, their restrictive franchise-location decisions and their slowness in resolving the Marge Schott affair. Now that these issues have stirred the interest of Brooks, repeal of the exemption must be considered a real possibility.
Federal regulation of boxing is another issue invested with new urgency. Previous calls for a federal agency to oversee the loosely monitored sport have gone unheeded, but Republican senator William Roth of Delaware and Democratic representative Bill Richardson of New Mexico say that the time is ripe for the almost identical boxing bills they plan to introduce this spring. The legislation would establish a federally chartered agency that would require state boxing commissions to meet federal standards on fighters' health and safety; the licensing of fighters, trainers, managers and promoters; conflicts of interest among boxers' handlers; and drug testing. The agency also would have subpoena powers enabling it to investigate shady goings-on.
The case for that last provision may be buttressed at a hearing scheduled for this week before the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. One witness expected to testify: Salvatore (Sammy the Bull) Gravano, the organized-crime henchman whose testimony helped convict Gambino crime family boss John Gotti last year on federal charges of murder and conspiracy. Senate investigators say that Gravano has told them of links between the mob and both former WBC welterweight champion Buddy McGirt and heavyweight Renaldo Snipes. They say that other witnesses have spoken of links between organized crime and former IBF super middleweight champion Iran Barkley. The investigators would not elaborate on the nature of the alleged tics. McGirt's lawyer, Michael De Chiara, denied that the boxer has mob connections. Barkley's lawyer, Oscar Goodman, would not comment. Snipes could not be reached by SI. As of last weekend, Snipes had not been subpoenaed by the committee, but McGirt and Barkley had, as had McGirt's manager, Al Certo, who told SI's Lester Munson on the eve of the hearing that he would take the Fifth Amendment. "Drugs are the problem, AIDS is the problem," said Certo. "Who gives a——about boxing?"
Indeed, the nation's leaders have many other things to worry about. But, clearly, both baseball's antitrust exemption and boxing's lawlessness merit closer scrutiny by Washington.
Back and Forth
At the NFL's annual meeting last week in Palm Desert, Calif., somebody asked L.A. Raider owner Al Davis about the remarkable resurgence of the Dallas Cowboys. Davis, who fancies himself the fount of football wisdom, correctly noted that soon after the Cowboys were sold in 1989, the team's new owner asked him for advice. "Call [ Dallas owner] Jerry Jones and ask him who he copied and who he visited," Davis implored. We did just that, and Jones said, "I'm sending Al a Super Bowl ring—not for his advice but for the trades he gave us."
As Davis may be somewhat less eager to acknowledge, the Cowboys have picked his pocket as well as his brain. Trades with L.A. have given Jones's team its starting fullback, Daryl Johnston (acquired in 1989, through a five-draft-pick swap with the Raiders); starting guard John Gesek (in 1990 for a '91 fifth-round pick); long snapper Dale Hellestrae (in '90 for the '91 seventh-round choice); and backup quarterback Steve Beuerlein (in '91 for the '92 fourth-round pick).