Let games go on, most pro, amateur organizations say

January 18, 1991|By Mark Hyman

The National Basketball Association, the Major Soccer League, the American Hockey League and most other sports organizations weighed their options and arrived at the same conclusion yesterday.

Despite war in the Persian Gulf, the games should go on.

"We have been in touch with various officials in Washington, and, on the basis of their reaction and advice, feel the appropriate conduct . . . is to continue to play all games as scheduled," the NBA announced in a statement.

The Major Soccer League said that players would wear patches of American flags on their uniforms, and, starting tonight, a moment of silence would be observed before all league games. Commissioner Earl Foreman said games won't be canceled now because "no purpose would be served."

AHL vice president Gordon Anziano put an even finer point on his league's decision to continue with its games. "Why is everyone so upset about scheduling games during this conflict?" Anziano asked. "Are they going to close down the waterfront in Baltimore? There will be more people there than at any of our games."

In fact, the only major sports event postponed or canceled by the war on Wednesday night was the North Carolina-North Carolina Statebasketball game in Chapel Hill. That, in part, prompted an announcement yesterday by the Atlantic Coast Conference that it plans to go ahead with all games for the foreseeable future.

Jim Marchiony, a spokesman for the National Collegiate Athletic Association, told The Associated Press the organization had not issued any directives to its member conferences or schools.

"That is strictly up to the institutions themselves," he said.

Short of postponements, however, sports officials are looking at a short and mostly predictable list of observances. They vary from sport to sport, but for the most part attempt to show support or respect for U.S. troops fighting in the Persian Gulf.

The Baltimore Blast, for instance, announced yesterday that it will tone down its explosive pre-game ceremonies by dropping the loud kabooms and puffs of smoke from introductions of players.

"Eliminating the explosions . . . shows we are aware how serious war really is," said John Borozzi, general manager of the MSL team.

National Football League players have been displaying U.S. flags on their helmets since mid-December.

In a few isolated cases, the response to war has been to forget the game, pack up and go home. The U.S. women's ski team withdrew from World Cup competition in Meribel, France, and returned home.

Three American women had been expected to compete in the World Cup downhill event this weekend.

"The decision was made last evening [Wednesday] based on conversations between our administrative staff and our coaching staff," said Maggie Dyer, a U.S. Skiing spokeswoman based in Colorado Springs, Colo. "We feel we should take advantage of a relatively safe opportunity to move our athletes vs. taking the chance that there would not be another opportunity for a while."

In Wengen, Switzerland, the U.S. men's team withdrew from a similar competition.

In both cases, the threat of terrorist attacks against U.S. athletes was cited as one reason for the action.

Back in North America, the National Hockey League said yesterday that it doesn't plan to cancel or postpone its All-Star Game, scheduled tomorrow in Chicago. Wednesday, the biggest name in hockey -- Wayne Gretzky -- had said that he wished league officials would cancel the game.

"I'd tell everybody to go home and evaluate what is going on," said Gretzky, whose cousin, Kenny Hopper, is a Marine pilot sent to the gulf this week. "That's only my opinion, but I don't run this league.

"The game is great for Chicago, great for hockey, but that's all secondary now. If it was me, I'd cancel the game.

"This is a scary situation when you think about it. Nobody likes to see war."

But NHL president John Ziegler said yesterday in a statement: "We will take our guidance from both the president of the United States as to the All-Star Game and from both the president and the prime minister of Canada as to our regular schedule. We have no indication or signal from the government that they would wish us not to go forward."

The PGA Tour was in Honolulu for the Hawaiian Open and said it planned to increase security.

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