Were there really NFL games on 11/24/63?

I’m still working my way through that Kennedy assassination book. The author says in passing that the NFL played its regular schedule on Sunday, the 24th, “but few people were aware of it”.

Well, first of all, duh. But that brings me to the second of all: why? Who did they think would go? And I can’t imagine that the players, ground crew and so forth would have wanted to be there. Is this true, or did I somehow misunderstand?

Pete Rozelle decided to play and regretted the rest of his life.

He has recounted this fact in numerous TV interviews…he clearly states in as a regret…a big one since he made the decision.

No doubt about it.

He decided…he regrets it…he admits it.

great link, relates today’s decision’s to Rozellles (WTC, versue Assassination of Kennedy)


Rozell was dealing with a single death; Tagliabue with thousands.
Rozell had 14 teams in the league; Tagliabue had 31.
Rozell had minutes to make his decision; Tagliabue had 3 days.
Rozell was not facing a strike; Tagliabue was embroiled in a referee labor dispute.
Rozell was not hampered by FAA constraints-one team was already in the air, and others were minutes from departure; Tagliabue was.
Rozell had no NFL precedent; Tagliabue had Rozell.
from http://www.coolstrategies.com/Pages/Article_Text.asp?article=Decision_Making.htm

Here is another interesting article. I found it by entering “football Kennedy 1963” in Google.


Who did they think would attend? LOTS of people.

I wasn’t there, obviously, as I was only 2 years old at the time of the JFK assassination, but veteran New York Post sportswriter Jerry Izenberg WAS there, and he said that the crowd at Yankee Stadium for the Giants game that weekend was BIGGER than usual! Few season ticket holders were so grief-stricken that they chose to stay home… and those who DID elect not to go to the game were besieged by cynical friends and relatives who saw an opportunity to get their tickets.

I have to wonder… do people still outraged by the NFL’s failure to cancel its games feel equally outraged by the movie theaters that stayed open that weekend? By the radio stations that continued to play music that weekend? By the restaurants that stayed open? By the newspapers that continued to print comic strips? Did Disneyland shut down for the whole weekend (nobody knows or much cares, I’d wager).

I mean, MANY forms of entertainment continued as if nothing had happened in November of 1963. Why single out football?

According to this article, Pete Rozelle (the NFL commissioner at the time, BTW) sought opinions and was advised to play the games:

It also states:

Rozelle (who died in 1996) clearly regretted the decision on later reflection, as several other folks have mentioned.

Hindsight is 20/20, so it’s very easy to criticize the decision today. I’m sure the result of that decision - and Rozelle’s publicly stated regrets - strongly influenced Paul Tagliabue last year.

Hey, astorian, I wasn’t criticizing Rozelle; I was just curious. I feel bad for the players, cheering squads if any, and stadium workers, all of whom had to be there when I’m sure they would rather have not. But OTOH, people like cops and hospital workers and transpo drivers also had to work that weekend. Society never really shuts down.

Interesting links, everyone. I found a sublink about college football that mentioned something I’d already thought of: that in the case of crucial games, it would be better to postpone, so that the eventual final score would reflect the abilities of both teams.

Also, Philster, one other point: Rozelle didn’t have to worry that the games would be bait for another assassination; Tagliabue welcomed the extra time to work out heightened security measures.

Two members of the Philadelphia Eagles got into an arguement about Rozelle’s decision and it escalated to a fight so fierce that they both ended up in the hospital.

It has been documented in an NFL films show that there was virtually no sound at any of the NFL games that weekend, no cheering or booing from the fans, they just sort of sat there.

Philster, spare me the bullshit about the qualifiers for Rozell. The AFL cancelled it’s games that weekend, so Rozelle could have done so just as easily. It was Pierre Salinger, JFK’s Press Secretary, who urged Rozell not to cancel the games. This is the same Pierre Salinger who accused the US military of using a missle to shoot down TWA Flight 800 over Long Island Sound back in 1996.

So the fact that Salinger made some crackpot remark 33 years later means that Rozelle should be skewered for following his advice then?

Bob Lilly was interviewed later and he said that the Dallas Cowboy players were particularly upset about playing. But they feared that people would act out against them because they represented Dallas. He said he kept his helmet on all the time.

It was quite a bit more then some crackpot remark that Salinger made as regards Flight 800. He held a major press conference during which he denounced the US and as his “proof” that the US military had shot the plane down, he showed a transcript which he said came from a very highly placed French Intelligence Official. The fact that the French Intelligence Official turned out to be some bullshit website is beside the point.

Didn’t the NFL also have games shortly after Pearl Harbor was bombed?

This is probably heading for GD or IMHO, but I do think in both cases the right decision was made. As was pointed out, it’s not like movie theaters closed or TV stopped broadcasting. And Sept. 11 had the added logistical problem of getting teams to and from stadiums with air travel a mess, and players threatening not to play.

Pete Rozelle should rest comfortably as being one of the best commissioners in any sport ever. The good things he did for the NFL far outweigh any possible criticism for playing after Kennedy died. And while I personally think the NFL playing the weekend after Sept. 11 would have been great, I understand 100% why the games were postponed.

The Pearl Harbor attack was on a Sunday, so I believe that games were underway when the Japanese attacked.

Then again, in 1941, not many people cared about the NFL anyway. It was likely a nonissue.

During WWII, some NFL teams merged the Steelers and Eagles played as the Steagles.

The Rams (then in Cleveland) took a year off.

HEY! I posted no opinions here, but took a couple shots!

I just referenced some stuff to answer the OP and give a couple of sides to the story that the OP hinted at wanting.

HEY! I posted no opinions here, but took a couple shots!

I just referenced some stuff to answer the OP and give a couple of sides to the story that the OP hinted at wanting.

I really don’t think this is off-topic, and I’ve wondered for a very long time:
When Ritchie Valens, Buddy Holly, and the Big Bopper died in that 1959 plane crash, how did the music world react? Did the record stores stay open, but with no background music, as American Pie alludes?

BobT: ah ha. I seem to remember reading an SI article about PH and the NFL–how the players and fans reacted. I think, and I might not be remembering this correctly, but some places didn’t annouce the attacks until after the game was over. Of course, 1941 was hardly the era of instantaneous news coverage, so it might not have been a scandal or anything.

According to Brinkley’s Washington At War, the announcing at the Washington Redskins game that day was constantly interrupted by intercom calls for certain Generals and Admirals that there was a phone call for them.
Oh, and I think Rozelle had the right idea; he knew that had the NFC played games that Sunday, it would mean that Lee Harvey Oswald would win.

And, in continuing the tradition, the Browns took decades off after that. And they’re still doing it.

John. I don’t understand. They did play the games that Sunday. What did I miss? did you mean that Oswald would have won if they didn’t play the games?