The National Football League is considering whether to postpone the Jan. 27 Super Bowl if war breaks out in the Persian Gulf.
The league Monday released a statement saying that as of now the championship game will proceed as scheduled, but the NFL reserves the right to change its plans.The two-sentence statement, from an unidentified NFL spokesman, said, "The NFL is planning to complete the remaining post-season games as scheduled. If events during the next three weeks lead us to re-evaluate our plans, we will make an announcement to that effect at that time."
The Super Bowl, the biggest annual sports event in the United States and a spectacle televised around the globe, including the Middle East, will be played in Tampa, Fla.
The two Super Bowl teams will be decided at next Sunday's conference title games in Buffalo, N.Y., and San Francisco. Within hours after those two games, fans, media, advertising officials and support personnel will head for Tampa.
Although no one within the league office was willing to discuss the situation publicly, there is obvious concern about the threat of terrorism if fighting begins in the Middle East after the United Nations' Jan. 15 deadline for Iraq's withdrawal from Kuwait.
"I'm not going to make a comment because there are too many things happening," said Robert Harlan, president of the Green Bay Packers. "Comment should come from the league office and I am sure that will happen soon."
Likewise, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Miami Dolphins and San Francisco 49ers withheld comment Monday.
This year's Super Bowl will be televised by ABC. Advertisers have paid $800,000 for each 30-second commercial to be run during the telecast, which begins 4 p.m. MST.
"There's nothing we can say," ABC Sports spokesman Mark Mandel said. "We've been planning on doing the telecast since the time we obtained the rights. We're concerned, but until we see what happens, there's nothing we can do."
There are indications NFL officials feel it is not too late to initiate extraordinary security measures if they think they are necessary to protect those at the game.
At events such as the Olympics and soccer's World Cup, it is standard procedure for spectators to be frisked and pass through metal detectors before entering the stadium. That has never been the case at the Super Bowl.
The NFL is particularly sensitive about staging its showcase entertainment in a time of crisis. Former Commissioner Pete Rozelle has said his biggest regret as head of the league was the decision to play weekend games following the assassination of President Kennedy.
Although the game will not be played for two weeks, Super Bowl activities begin in earnest next Monday.