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Former Olympics Executive Jeffrey Benz and NFL Star Ephraim Salaam Appointed to ABA Classics Executive Roster


Will Play Key Roles In Shaping New Trend Setting Basketball League

LOS ANGELES, July 29, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Continuing to bolster its senior executive team, the newly minted ABA Classics division has appointed recently retired NFL star of 14 years Ephraim Salaam and veteran sports, entertainment and media attorney/executive Jeffrey Benz to senior management positions within the division's front office. The announcement was made on July 29 by ABA Classics partners Deon Taylor and J. Erving.

Jeff Benz will assume the post of Executive Vice President of Business & Legal Affairs. Ephraim Salaam will serve as Creative Executive and Creative Consultant.

Last month Joe Newman, Chairman/CEO of the American Basketball Association, Inc. (ABA), Deon Taylor, CEO of Ether Sports Marketing, LLC (EMC), and J. Erving, CEO of 6Sports, LLC (6Sports) announced the creation of a new ABA division, branded as ABA Classics. Newman remains Chairman and CEO of the ABA. However, ABA Classics will have a separate management structure from the ABA and will be led by Deon Taylor and J. Erving, along with Jeff Benz and Ephraim Salaam.

Jeff Benz is an accomplished sports, entertainment, technology, and media attorney and executive, having served in a number of senior management positions in these industries over the past 17 years.

Most recently he was COO and General Counsel of a San Francisco and Shanghai-based mobile commerce company.  Previously, Benz was Chief Administrative Office, General Counsel, and Secretary of the AVP Pro Beach Volleyball Tour, based in Los Angeles, where, among other things, he oversaw this public company's administrative operations, negotiated substantial sponsorship, broadcast, and event agreements.

Prior to the AVP, Benz was COO and head of legal and business affairs for A2 Holdings, LLC, a Los Angeles-based, venture-backed startup led by former KingWorld CEO Michael King to promote the sport of boxing through television and other media.

Benz spent the previous six years as General Counsel, Managing Director of Legal and Government Affairs, Corporate Secretary, and Chief Ethics Officer for the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), where he oversaw all business and legal affairs, including negotiating and documenting over $500 million in sponsorships and licensing, a $2 billion television rights deal for broadcasting the 2010 and 2012 Olympic Games in the United States, and numerous media deals for film, television, and the web featuring the Olympic Games. While at the USOC, Jeff also oversaw the brand development and protection efforts.

Benz began his career at a small San Francisco law firm before moving to the large international law firm Coudert Brothers where he developed the firm's worldwide sports practice group and was responsible for generating a number of substantial project finance and commercial representation work relating to high profiles sports leagues and events worldwide. He also represented athletes and sports governing bodies, and he has been a professional boxing promoter. Admitted to practice in California, Colorado, and Hawaii, Benz is an accomplished sports, entertainment, and commercial arbitrator and mediator with the American Arbitration Association, Court of Arbitration for Sport, Hong Kong International Arbitration Center, Republic of China Arbitration Association, London Court of International Arbitration, and ICC-USCIB.

Ephraim Salaam is a rare athlete who truly welcomes the spotlight both on and off the field. His megawatt smile and quick wit were unparalleled in the NFL, and he has fourteen successful seasons with 163 games to back up his banter.

Salaam was selected by Atlanta in the seventh round of the 1998 NFL Draft. He started all 19 games during his rookie season, regular and postseason, and is only the fourth player in league history to accomplish this feat. That same year, he was part of an offensive line that helped the Falcons advance to Super Bowl XXXIII against the Broncos. This former foe then turned to friend when Salaam signed with Denver in 2002.

For someone who played a classically thankless role on the field, Salaam knows how to draw the cameras and columnists. Salaam's "off the cuff" style and quick wit has led to numerous television appearances nationwide. Among those opportunities Ephraim had been a recurring host and correspondent for Fox's "Best Damn Sports Show Period" and he has also been a guest host, correspondent and resident movie critic for the NFL Network's "Total Access."

He expanded his on-camera resume with a foray into acting on the CW hit sitcom "The Game." During Super Bowl XLII, with 97.5 million viewers, Ephraim starred in the NFL's Super Ad Commercial, where viewers were able to see another side of his magnetic personality. Following the hit commercial Ephraim was contacted by his newest fan, "Ellen DeGeneres" who brought him on her show after recognizing his star quality. After a memorable performance, Ellen permanently hired Ephraim as one of her correspondents for the "The Ellen Show."

As a follow up to his 2008 NFL Super Ad, Ephraim also starred in the NFL's 2009 NFL Super Ad promotional commercial, which aired for months on every major television network, encouraging fans to vote for the next Super Ad. Ephraim has also been a correspondent for ESPN during the ESPY Awards for the past three years. This past season Ephraim was featured on ESPN's MNF Countdown, "For Love of the Game" and during the 2009 playoffs, Ephraim was a guest host on FOX 11 Los Angeles and continues to entertain locally and nationally.

The ABA Classics season is slated to start in mid-June 2012. Plans are to have 12 ABA Classics teams, which will be grouped into two sub-divisions of six teams each. The league is in the process of determining the number of games per team in a season and currently entertaining offers from several cities and potential franchise owners for teams.

Open tryouts are anticipated to begin in April 2012, followed by a draft in May 2012. Training camps will open immediately thereafter in preparation for the mid-June 2012 season start.

About American Basketball Association, Inc.

(ABA): The ABA is the largest professional sports league in the US with over ninety (90) teams based in the US and internationally. It is also the most diverse professional sports league in history with over 75% of its teams owned by women and minorities. The ABA has made professional basketball fan-friendly and affordable and its teams are committed to working closely with the youth in their communities. The ABA provides over 1000 players, 200 coaches and 200 referees the opportunity to work and compete at the professional level.

About Ether Sports Marketing, LLC (Ether):

Ether is the owner of the exclusive license with the ABA to manage ABA Classics.  Ether is led by Hollywood director and CEO Deon Taylor, and is run out of Sacramento and Los Angeles.

About 6Sports, LLC (6Sports):

Led by successful entrepreneur and music industry veteran J. Erving, 6Sports is a multi-platform sports and entertainment company that offers a wide selection of services to professional athletes, drawing upon the founders' considerable success in the music industry. The company identifies opportunities and executes strategies to expand clients' brands into ancillary markets.