Three-time All-Star forward Dale Mitchell has filed a contract grievance against the Kansas City Comets that could result in Mitchell being declared a free agent Tuesday and nullifying the Aug. 20 trade that brought him to the Baltimore Blast from the Comets for Carl Valentine.
Mitchell has charged that Comets owner Chris Clouser induced him to sign with Kansas City early in July by promising him "certain things over and above what was written in the contract" and then trading him to Baltimore, which had no knowledge of those extra incentives.
Mitchell's grievance will go before sports arbitrator George Nicolau at 10 a.m. Tuesday in Washington. The hearing will be attended by Mitchell; Clouser; John Kerr, director of the Major Soccer League Players Association; Blast general manager John Borozzi; and an attorney representing the MSL.
Mitchell said yesterday: "I'm contesting things agreed between Kansas City and myself. John Kerr said certain things happened to me that weren't right. There's no problem between me and the Blast; it's between me and K.C. There's a problem with the negotiations in K.C. Things happened in those negotiations that affected the trade. The hearing is about those things, not the trade."
But Kerr and Borozzi said last night that the trade would be "null and void" if Mitchell wins his grievance.
Borozzi said: "If there was some violation, the trade would be null and void. I don't want to comment any more on it because I'm not privy to all the information. That's between Dale and the Comets. It affects us indirectly."
Kerr said: "We're asking [the arbitrator] to make him [Mitchell] a free agent. That would put everything back where it was before Dale signed with Kansas City. Then everything would be fine for him."
Kerr also said: "Dale feels the Kansas City owner [Clouser] promised him things in the contract that weren't necessarily spelled out that induced him to sign and then traded him. If Baltimore wasn't privy to the information, that presents a problem. If the arbitrator feels the promises made over and above the contract induced Dale to sign, then he will rule in our favor."
However, Kerr said it would not be easy for the arbitrator to rule on the grievance since the "promises weren't in writing."
Kerr said, "I hope Dale signs with the Blast [after he is ruled a free agent]."
To which Blast owner Ed Hale answered last night: "He [Kerr] must be direct from Disney World. Mitchell's already with us. We took over his contract from Kansas City. He's under contract with us at the maximum [$72,000 a year] allowed under the salary cap."
Blast coach Kenny Cooper said last night that Mitchell already has "received one paycheck from us."
Of the alleged promises made by Clouser, Hale said: "I don't know what they're [Mitchell and Kerr] talking about. Side deals and extras aren't legal. You have to stay within the salary cap."
Hale added: "Dale's been very polite over the phone, but I have to believe he wouldn't be doing all this if he didn't want to play in another city."