Sports wait and see, too, with plans for wartime Leagues won't talk about possible action

January 15, 1991|By Mark Hyman

A Persian Gulf war would affect many facets of American society, including, it appears, sporting events.

Spokesmen for various professional leagues acknowledged yesterday that they have discussed privately how they would react to a war. None was willing to say much more.

"We've had discussion about what would be an appropriate response. Now, we'll just have to see what the circumstances are," said Greg Aiello, a spokesman for the National Football League.

In the NFL's case, the response could be to postpone Super Bowl XXV, scheduled for Jan. 27. Quoting league sources, Advertising Age magazine reported in its Jan. 14 edition that the extreme step is under consideration.

Aiello disputed that, however, saying, "Circumstances will dictate what we do, and we don't know what the circumstances are going to be."

ABC spokesman Mark Mandel told the Associated Press the network was going ahead with its Super Bowl plans and hadn't considered contingency plans.

"Obviously, no one on earth knows what's going to happen in the Persian Gulf," Mandel said. "Right now, we're going ahead as we've planned it for a long time. We're concerned with what's happening in the world, and we'll do whatever is appropriate."

Network coverage of this weekend's NFL conference championship games could be spotty if world events merit coverage, according to one network spokesman.

"If there is world news coming out of Persian Gulf, we will cover it -- CBS News will make that determination," said Susan Kerr, a spokeswoman for CBS, which has the telecast rights to the NFC championship game. "We will be the conduit for them getting on air if it's during our [CBS Sports'] programming. It's a news division decision by their senior management."

Saturday, CBS cut away from President Bush's impromptu news conference so it would not miss the kickoff of the Washington Redskins-San Francisco 49ers game. And NBC did the same thing Sunday before the Cincinnati Bengals-Los Angeles Raiders game.

Officials of other sports leagues said their plans depend on news from the Middle East.

"It's a little premature. We'll see what happens," said Brian McIntyre, a spokesman for the National Basketball Association.

"As of this point, there have been no formal discussions between the commissioner and the board of directors," said Major Soccer League spokesman John Griffin. "But it's in their minds. I would imagine if [war] happens, they will react to it."

Major League Baseball has until mid-February, when spring camps open, to decide how it will react. Apparently, baseball will take that time. "Nothing has been decided. We are monitoring the situation," said spokesman Jim Small.

Historically, sporting events have gone on uninterrupted during some of the bleaker periods in world history. Baseball, minus many star players who were serving in the armed forces, was played throughout U.S. involvement in World War II. When President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963, the NFL held to its schedule of games the next Sunday.

One major sports event that has been canceled by world events is the U.S. Open golf tournament. The U.S. Golf Association suspended the premier American golf tournament during U.S. involvement in World War II, from 1942-45.

If war breaks out in the Persian Gulf, those same questions of propriety will be raised again.

Said Andy Geiger, athletic director at the University of Maryland, "There's part of me that thinks the pluck of hoping and muddling through is good, and another part that says kids are getting killed, and the seriousness of that ought to cause the frivolity involved in games to be postponed."

Geiger said he has not yet discussed with campus president William E. Kirwan any of the issues raised by a Persian Gulf war for sports teams at College Park.

The Baltimore Blast and Baltimore Skipjacks said their schedules were intact for now. The Skipjacks play the Springfield Indians tonight at the Baltimore Arena, and the Blast is in Baltimore next on Saturday against the Tacoma Stars.

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