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Rep. Conyers says Selig should resign
AP Sports WriterNEW YORK (AP) -- A day after urging Bud Selig to resign, the House Judiciary Committee's ranking Democrat said he would back off if the baseball commissioner dropped his threat to eliminate teams this season.
Rep. John Conyers Jr. of Michigan said Wednesday that Selig appeared to violate major league rules in a 1995 loan from a company controlled by the Minnesota Twins owner.
Conyers the loan created an "irreparable conflict of interest" for Selig in his plan to fold two franchises, a proposal that most likely would include the Twins.
"In light of this disclosure and your apparent unwillingness to reveal other financial information that you assert supports your decision to eliminate two baseball teams, I regret that I must call on you to resign as commissioner of major league baseball," Conyers wrote in a letter to Selig that the congressman released.
Selig sent a two-page letter to Conyers, saying he "was both stunned and disappointed to receive your letter."
"Let me be unequivocal," Selig wrote. "The suggestions made in your letter are wholly unacceptable."
Conyers, in another letter Thursday, said delaying the contraction plan would cause him to eliminate his call for Selig's departure.
"As an alternative, let me suggest that you immediately announce that major league baseball will not contract any teams and not place any team ownership in league control prior to the conclusion of the upcoming season," Conyers wrote. "This would give us all the time and opportunity necessary to consider the range of issues, including potential conflict of interest problems, that have arisen."
Rep. Bill Luther, D-Minn., had echoed the call for Selig's resignation, saying "the best interests of baseball are not served by having a team owner serve as commissioner.
"Selig's recent contraction scheme, along with the revelation of his possibly improper multimillion-dollar loan underscore the importance of having new leadership in major league baseball."
In his Wednesday letter, Conyers accused baseball of lying to the committee and asked Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner, the committee chairman, to hold another hearing on baseball's antitrust exemption. Conyers was critical of Selig when the commissioner testified in Washington last month.
Selig admitted this week that in 1995, a company controlled by Minnesota Twins owner Carl Pohlad arranged for a $3 million loan to the Milwaukee Brewers, run at the time by Selig and now by his daughter, Wendy Selig-Prieb.
Former commissioners Bowie Kuhn, Peter Ueberroth and Fay Vincent said the loan was unprecedented and might have broken the rule prohibiting loans from the owner of one team to another without approval of all the teams in that league and the commissioner.
"Before any further decisions are made on the elimination of a team, there are many questions which the public needs answered," Conyers wrote. "What are the facts about the loan? Did the loan violate baseball's own rules? Are there any legal ramifications of such a violation? How much additional television revenue will the Brewers receive from the elimination of the Twins? What types of agreements, informal or formal, have been reached between you and Mr. Pohlad in connection with the elimination of the Twins?"
Selig, in his first public response to the revelation of the loan Tuesday, told Conyers the Brewers' "survival was in question" at the time of the loan, which followed the 232-day strike that wiped out the 1994 World Series.
"To suggest somehow that there is a conflict of interest between this and the contraction decisions made by the clubs in 2001 and 2002 is preposterous," Selig wrote.
"Our conflict rules regarding loans from club to club are to prevent undue influence being exerted by one team over another. This was a short-term loan from a lending institution which was owned by the family of an owner, and was at arm's length and for a commercial rate of interest. The loan was made and paid in full six years prior to any consideration of contraction by the industry."
Selig cited a decision by baseball's executive council earlier in 1995 to approve banks who had loaned money to other teams and to players as non-controlling investors in the Arizona Diamondbacks.
"The executive council determined not to consider that a conflict under the rules," Selig wrote. "As a result, I do not view the Brewers' loan to be an issue. In addition, the loan was made and paid off prior to the next scheduled owners' meeting. I am absolutely confident that had the loan been outstanding at the time of the meeting, it would have received approval at that time."
Conyers claimed that "according to industry experts, the Brewers stand to double their television revenue if the Twins are eliminated."
Selig disputed that.
"The Brewers expect no increase in either ticket sales or broadcast revenues if the Twins are in fact one of the teams eliminated," Selig responded. "It is our full intention to retain existing broadcast territories and protect the contracted Clubs' territories as an asset of the industry as a whole."
"Your job as commissioner is to do what is in the best interest of baseball," Conyers wrote. "As I review the interests of baseball's fans and the local communities, businesses and workers, it is clear to me that it is in the best interest of baseball for you to tender your resignation. I ask that you seriously consider taking this step to clear the air as baseball addresses the serious issues it confronts."
Conyers also contested a letter he received from Bob DuPuy, Selig's chief lawyer, saying the committee staff "worked out a solution" that would allow the players' association to discuss detailed financial information it had received in confidence from the commissioner's office.
"Baseball's representation that an agreement had been reached on the disclosure of financial information to the committee is blatantly false and fails to satisfy my request," Conyers said. "It also appears to bolster the assertions of union representatives, namely that if all records were publicly disclosed, your claims about the financial health of major league baseball would be proven to be false."
DuPuy said he had reached the agreement with Perry Applebaum, a member of Conyers' staff. Applebaum could not immediately contacted for a response.