NFL Lockout Watch, Day 133: HOF Game Canceled As Time Runs Out
The NFL Thursday night announced that the Pro Football HOF Game on Aug. 7 has been canceled and “won’t be rescheduled,” according to Steve Doerschuk of the Canton REPOSITORY. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said, “The time is just too short.” The HOF “must refund the face value of the approximately 14,000 tickets that were sold” for the Rams-Bears game and “take a financial hit from losing an event that annually draws a sold-out house of about 23,000.” Pro Football HOF VP/Communications & Exhibits Joe Horrigan said, “It’s a disappointment, but not a surprise.” The HOF Game has been “joined at the hip to the annual enshrinement ceremonies.” The game for years "was played on a Saturday night, hours after” the HOF induction. In recent years, the HOF Game “has been played a day after the enshrinement” (Canton REPOSITORY, 7/22). Horrigan said that “a significant part of the Hall's annual budget is derived from ticket and merchandise sales from” the game. He added that the “three hours prime-time exposure on NBC's game telecast had an immeasurable impact on the Hall and the city of Canton.” Most of the "other events over 10 days of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival will go on as scheduled” (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 7/22). Bears President & CEO Ted Phillips said, “Because we have Richard Dent being enshrined, it's disappointing from that standpoint, but probably the most fair given the circumstances of the off-season that every team starts training camp on the same day" (Illinois DAILY HERALD, 7/22). Rams Exec VP/Football Operations & COO Kevin Demoff said, “We will still be in Canton to honor Marshall Faulk and Les Richter, and this doesn't change how special a day it will be for two great Rams players” (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 7/22).
DIDN'T HAVE A CHOICE: In Chicago, Biggs & McClure note the cancelation of the game is “no surprise.” The Bears and Rams “were supposed to report to camp Friday." The teams will be "showing up at least five days late, which would have given them at most 10 days to prepare for the game and made player safety a significant issue.” Bears LB Brian Urlacher said, "It's a preseason game. It doesn't mean anything. So that's one less chance we have to get people hurt. I definitely respect the Hall of Fame and all that stuff, but again, it doesn't mean anything. I'm not mad one bit about it being canceled" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 7/22). ESPN CHICAGO’s Michael Wright noted “publicly and privately, several players had expressed concern about safety if the league forced the teams to play the game on its originally scheduled date.” Bears S Chris Harris said, “I'm not going to fight them on it. Everybody else plays four (games), and to be selected to play in that fifth preseason game can be a little taxing, especially with as little preparation as we're going to have” (ESPNCHICAGO.com, 7/21).