Angering management of the Atlanta Braves and creating a media distraction as the team prepared for Game 4 of the National League playoffs Saturday night, Deion Sanders told club president Stan Kasten that he would attempt a two-sport doubleheader today.
"I thought it was about time for us to know," Kasten said of the call he placed to Sanders earlier in the day.
Kasten said that Sanders told him he would play for the Atlanta Falcons against the Miami Dolphins at Miami this afternoon, then return for Game 5 of the playoffs tonight. Nike, Sanders' shoe sponsor, is reportedly picking up an $8,300 tab for the charter flights.
The Braves contend they have an understanding with the backup center fielder that he would be with the Braves exclusively during the postseason.
General Manager John Schuerholz said he would not have put Sanders on the playoff roster if he had known that commitment wasn't going to be honored.
"This is a 25-man team," he said. "If he gets banged up (playing for the Falcons) and can't play for us, it puts us at a disadvantage.
"I mean, we've been flexible all along. We've accepted that football is an important component of his program. Up until today he hasn't been a problem, but we had an understanding that we'd have him exclusively during the playoffs and World Series.
Manager Bobby Cox said that he didn't view the issue as a distraction or problem unless Sanders "comes back late tomorrow or comes back hurt. Then it's a problem." He said that it seemed "unreasonable" for a player not to honor a commitment as part of a team.
"Then again, this is an unusual situation," he said. "It's never been done. I'm sure Deion knows that."
Aside from interviews on network television, Sanders isn't talking to reporters, a response to critical Atlanta columns during his contract negotiations with the Falcons.
"They had the privilege, they abused the privilege and they lost the privilege," he said of his boycott of the print media.
Sanders would lose $118,000 of his $2-million Falcon salary if he skipped today's game. His teammates with the Braves were neither surprised nor disturbed by his decision.
"It seems like we've been through this every weekend for the last two months," close friend Steve Avery said. "We're getting used to it. Deion has to do what he has to do. I think we all wish we had the talent to do it, too."