Can George Steinbrenner say "team player?" Not likely--at least if it means leaving money on the table. On Mar. 3, his New York Yankees broke ranks with Major League Baseball, announcing a 10-year sponsorship deal with Adidas that is likely to bring in nearly $100 million.
Fellow owners aren't pleased. They have been pursuing MLB-wide endorsement contracts that would have big- and small-market teams sharing in the proceeds. Baseball says, in fact, that it has commitments from three companies to pay $150 million for sponsorships this year. But it's not clear whether MLB can block the Yankees deal.
Meanwhile, Steinbrenner's view is that sharing is O.K., but competition is better--at least for the Yanks. The Boss, associates say, was miffed at a now-scotched MLB deal with Nike and Reebok that would have brought each club just $100,000 annually. The Adidas deal, says Yankees attorney David Boies, "opens up an opportunity for other clubs to benefit much more than they would have under a process that, frankly, wasn't going anyplace."