Edward Bennett Williams, president of the Redskins, has asked the National Football League to move the team's Oct. 7 game from RFK Stadium to Philadelphia so it will not conflict with the mass to be celebrated on the Mall by Pope John Paul II.
Police officials have expressed fears that the Redskin's home game against the Philadelphia Eagles, beginning only two hours before the pope's 3 p.m. mass for an expected 1 million people, could greatly complicate the already tremendous traffic and transportation problems that are anticipated during the pontiff's visit here.
The current schedule calls for the Redskins to play the Eagles here Oct. 7 and in Philadelphia Oct. 21.
"I have suggested to the league that we flip-flop the Eagles games," Williams said. "It's competitively disadvantageous for us because we're on the road for four solid weeks but respect for the Holy Father and good citizenship" dictated his request, Williams said.
He also noted that fans might not come to a home game Oct. 7 because of the threatened traffic tie-ups and because they might want to see the pope instead.
The final decision on the schedule change is up to NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle. Williams said his office called Rozelle's office last week, and he personally called Rozelle yesterday to reiterate his hope that the switch will be made. An NFL spokesman said "We're open to speculate on the final decision.
Jim Murray, general manager of the Philadelphia Eagles, said yesterday that he had not heard of Williams' proposal, but did not see any major obstacles to switching the games.
"I named my son John Paul, who was born on Super Bowl Sunday, after the pope. So I'm certainly prejudiced in his direction . . . Everybody here [in Philadelphia] is aware of the significance of the papal visit," Murray said.
Murray called Eagles president Leonard H. Tose yesterday afternoon to ask him about the switch. "Mr. Tose wanted to know who the pope would pray for -- us or Washington," Murray said. "Who's going to fight the pope?"
Kevin O'Malley, vice president of communications for CBS sports, said a switch would not have a substantial effect on the network because the game would be a regional broadcast and the market would be the Washington-Baltimore-Philadelphia area, regardless of where the game was played.
"The only thing that would alter our plans would be if CBS News planned to give major coverage to the pope in Washington," O'Malley said, if CBS decides to show the mass on the Mall, "the whole national pattern of broadcasts would be affected -- not just the Redskins' game," said O'Malley, but that decision probably will not be made until next week.
Williams, who is Catholic, said he first learned of the schedule conflict between his team and the pope from Cardinal William W. Baum a few weeks ago. But he said religion had nothing to do with the proposed "flip-flop" in the Redskins' game.
"I think it's a reasonable solution to a horrible traffic problem," Williams said. "I talked to Rozelle and it's in the mill . . . But reason is always an underdog."