Players’ Talk Centers on Gasol

The Memphis Grizzlies media day was full of revelations as the team prepared to start its abbreviated training camp.

Some highlights from Friday’s event:

Rudy Gay, back from a nearly 11-month hiatus following surgery, said his shoulder is “200 percent better.”

The players feel “dissed” that Memphis didn’t get a Christmas Day game while a couple of non-playoff teams – Golden State and the LA Clippers – did.

And Zach Randolph – notorious for his lack of hops – promised he would dunk 30 times this season, well above the 11 he notched last year.

But the biggest topic during the 30-minute press conference and the one-on-one player interviews that followed was re-signing Marc Gasol.

Mike Conley said he hopes the 7-foot center Gasol – who was reported to be in LA on Friday – was “on his way back now.” And Randolph said the team wouldn’t be the same without the “big man” there next to him.

But Tony Allen gave perhaps the quote of the day when News Channel 3’s Mike Ceide asked him about Gasol’s return.

Allen said, “When the big fella gets back, I’ll be happier than a kid at McDonald’s.”

Allen wasn’t done with the praise for his teammate, who is a restricted free agent and who the Grizzlies have said they expect to return. After the presser, Allen tweeted: “Really wasn’t feeling the mode without marc??? @MarcGasol. We miss u man!! Hope they get that ink in order!! Salute!”

If you’re not already following TA’s tweets, check out his Twitter feed, @aa000G9. You won’t!! be!! disappointed!!

Fasten your seatbelts

In its effort to see FedEx Express employees fall under the National Labor Relations Act and not the Railway Labor Act – thereby making the company easier to unionize – the International Brotherhood of Teamsters has launched a new campaign claiming that “FedEx drivers aren’t pilots.”

The website includes a video and written material expressing Teamsters’ opinion that the Memphis-based shipper shouldn’t be classified as an airline because its numerous drivers don’t fly planes and its trucks don’t have flight attendants.

“FedEx bought its special status through political arm-twisting, plain and simple,” Teamsters general president Jim Hoffa said in a statement. “But now Congress must do the right thing and close the loophole. Americans are tired of giveaways to corporations, especially to a company that can’t even be upfront about what it really does.”

FedEx, which has long fought the efforts of Teamsters, is working to maintain its status under the Railway Labor Act, legislation that makes it nearly impossible for unions to grab a foothold.

The company has said it will cancel a $6.7 billion order of Boeing freighters if the labor reclassification occurs with an amendment of the FAA’s reauthorization bill.

Blame Canada?

A whistleblower has filed suit in Ontario, Canada, alleging that FedEx Canada – a subsidiary of Memphis-based FedEx Corp. – is letting shipments cross the U.S-Canada border without the proper customs paperwork.

That could potentially allow dangerous goods into this country – at a time when most eyes are focused on the U.S.-Mexico border to the south.

Details of the suit, filed with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, can be found at this website.

Here’s an excerpt:

Consequently, this class of shipments would likely include a high percentage of controlled goods (defined as strategic, dangerous or regulated, such as nuclear dual-use technology, dangerous chemicals or U.S. goods being shipped from Canada). According to Canadian Customs regulations, these controlled goods are monitored closely, in part, to assure that they don’t pose a security threat to other nations, such as the United States.

The still-pending lawsuit, filed by a former Federal Express Canada Ltd. customs department employee named Nazir Ghany, alleges that FedEx Canada has engaged in “unlawful activities” that violate the Canadian Customs Act. As a consequence of reporting these alleged violations, Ghany contends he was demoted and subjected to retaliation by FedEx Canada management — to the point where he claims he had no choice but to resign from his job.

“Aerotropolis” Lands on Capitol Hill

Congressman Steve Cohen has latched onto the aerotropolis concept and is working to get his Washington colleagues on board as well.

The democrat today introduced legislation – H.R. 5236, the Aerotropolis Act of 2010 – to fund the development of transportation assets in Memphis and elsewhere under the aerotropolis banner.

“The need to ship and receive goods more quickly and over longer distances is increasing by the day,” Cohen said in a release. “Establishing aerotropolis transportation systems in Memphis and across the country will spur economic growth, create jobs, improve our shipping transportation network, and enable us to compete more effectively in a 21st century global economy.”

The concept has been around for a few years. John Kasarda, the North Carolina professor who coined the phrase, called Memphis the nation’s only developed aerotropolis.

The initiative got its first official public funding last fall when the City Council approved $1.6 million for the beautification of Plough Boulevard.

For more about the aerotropolis concept, check out this article in The Memphis News.

United-Continental Merger Sealed in Memphis

Bloomberg is reporting that part of the mammoth merger between United and Continental airlines was negotiated at the Radisson hotel next to Memphis International Airport.

Here’s an excerpt from the report, written by Zachary R. Mider, Mary Jane Credeur and Mary Schlangenstein

The accord for each Continental share to be exchanged for 1.05 UAL shares was reached at an April 27 meeting at a Radisson hotel in Memphis, Tennessee.

“I had no idea,” said Richard Markham, the hotel’s general manager. “They must have been incognito.”

The Radisson was built in the mid-1970s and has 211 guest rooms and a bar and restaurant called Cayenne’s, Markham said in an interview. The property is located about 3 miles (4.8 kilometers) from Graceland, the former home of Elvis Presley.

“Jeff chose an illustrious venue, the airport Radisson,” Tilton said in an interview. “I was given a memento of that occasion, a plastic passkey, nicely framed.”

Perhaps that’s worth some extra flights into and out of Memphis once the merger is complete.