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NFL’s Decision to Play Games Evokes Anger

Nov. 23, 1963 - The decision by NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle (pictured) to go through with the seven games on its schedule tomorrow evoked indignant reactions from many pro football fans and reportedly from numerous players. On the other hand, several clubs, including the New York Giants, who will play the St. Louis Cardinals at Yankee Stadium tomorrow, reported increased demand for tickets. The postponement of the American Football League’s four-game schedule for tomorrow was a factor in the criticism leveled at the NFL in calls to the Giants, to Yankee Stadium, to league headquarters, to other league clubs, and to newspapers. In explanation of the NFL’s decision, Mr. Rozelle said: “It has been traditional in sports for athletes to perform in times of great personal tragedy. Football was Mr. Kennedy’s game. He thrived on competition.” CBS announced, however, that there will be no telecasts or broadcasts of NFL games. Many disagreed with Rozelle’s ruling. In Philadelphia, the Eagles reported numerous protests — one from the head of the club — because they intended to play the Washington Redskins as scheduled. Frank McNamee, the Eagles’ president, was quoted by The Associated Press as saying, “Simply and flatly, the game is being played by order of the commissioner.” McNamee said he would not attend the game but would go to a memorial service for President Kennedy instead. Mayor James H.J. Tate of Philadelphia, responding to telephone calls of protest, asked Rozelle to postpone the game. Tate’s office reported that neither team wanted to play, but that Rozelle refused a postponement. Many fans who telephoned Philadelphia City Hall said they were season ticket holders who would not renew their tickets next season. There were indications that club officials in Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, and Cleveland would have preferred to postpone their contests as well.

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