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Clippers Didn’t Get Insurance

The Clippers, who did not take out an insurance policy to cover Danny Manning’s $10.5-million guaranteed contract, may be the National Basketball Assn.'s only franchise that does not insure player contracts against injuries.

In a telephone poll, 22 of the 24 other teams--the Lakers and Golden State Warriors declined to answer--said they insure players.

Even if the Clippers had such a policy, it probably would not have paid off because such policies usually are honored only if the injured athlete is unable to return to competition.

A few organizations may have protection for only one star. The Chicago Bulls, for example, insure the salary of only Michael Jordan. But the 22 teams answering said that at least some high-priced and long-term contracts are protected, for the actual amount and sometimes even for the projected money loss in concessions, attendance and other indirect revenue.

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“Isn’t it comparable to someone who bought a new Rolls-Royce, didn’t get insured and then cracked it up?” said Ted Dipple, president of Massachusetts-based American Sports Underwriters, which deals with 20 NBA teams and others in baseball, football and hockey.

“You’d say, ‘Damn,’ because it’s all on your shoulders. I’m sure Mr. Sterling (Donald T. Sterling, the Clippers’ owner) said ‘Oh, damn!’ when Mr. Manning injured his knee. It’s a matter of 20/20 vision.”

Most policies are for permanent disability, with the premiums running 1%-1 1/2% of the contract, and teams are only reimbursed on guaranteed pacts if the player never returns. Thus, the New York Knicks were not covered for Bernard King’s long rehabilitation and the Portland Trail Blazers was not compensated for Sam Bowie’s long absence.

Had the Clippers taken out the same type of policy with Manning--temporary-disability deals are available, but with much steeper premiums of 3%-5%--they would only have been reimbursed if he never played again. And with recent advances in medical procedures and other factors that work in Manning’s benefit, most notably his youth, that is considered unlikely.

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Still, the Clippers apparently thought enough about having Manning covered that they initiated negotiations on a policy. Or at least someone initiated talks for them. Dipple said that three Los Angeles-area insurance brokers called him on behalf of the Clippers, but never followed through.

Meanwhile, the NBA has been considering implementing a league-wide insurance plan, with owners combining to pay the group premium for protection against having to pay guaranteed contracts to injured players.

“We are optimistic that in the next several months we can put together some kind of program,” said Russ Granik, the NBA’s executive vice president. “Exactly what it will entail, we’re not sure yet.

“I don’t know if we’ll get it done or not. But because it’s something that affects a lot of teams, it is worth looking into.”

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