While American professional and most major collegiate sports leagues announced yesterday they are planning to play their games as scheduled despite the outbreak of war in the Middle East, the U.S. men's and women's ski teams returned from competitions in Europe and the U.S. Army decided to pull all of its television recruiting advertisements for at least two weeks.
Some of those ads were scheduled to appear during broadcasts of the NFL's conference championship games, which remain set for Sunday in Buffalo and San Francisco. The Super Bowl is still scheduled for Jan. 27 in Tampa, the league announced.
"We recognize the importance of achieving the goals established by President Bush and the United Nations," NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said in a statement. "We also recognize that the American people will not be paralyzed by the events in the Middle East or allow the fabric of daily life to be destroyed.
"We will obviously continue to follow events . . . and take those into account as we approach kickoff. We have advised the Defense Department and other federal authorities of these plans, and we have complete confidence that our plans are appropriate."
White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater concurs. Asked whether the Super Bowl should be affected, he said: "We're not suggesting that life should be disrupted. There's no reason for people to be canceling meetings or events and so forth." Fitzwater also said that before fighting began, Bush taped a message of support for U.S. military personnel that is to be broadcast during the Super Bowl.
The only postponement last night was a men's college basketball game between North Carolina-Asheville and Coastal Carolina. In Missoula, Mont., a dozen anti-war protesters delayed the start of a nationally televised game between Idaho and Montana by lying on the court. Police removed the protesters and the game began five minutes late.
The NHL, whose All-Star Game is Saturday in Chicago, and the NBA announced they intend to proceed without interruption, subject to further developments.
Spokesmen for NBC Sports and CBS Sports said they still intend to televise this weekend's big events. NBC has the NHL All-Star Game and the AFC championship game, CBS has college basketball and the NFC championship game. CBS Radio will carry both NFL games as scheduled but has the satellite channel capacity to give its affiliates a choice between football, which can include news updates, and continuous news coverage, spokeswoman Helene Blieberg said.
U.S. Skiing officials and athletes determined that the safest course of action was to have its teams come home immediately, then reassess the situation. The men's team withdrew from a competition in Switzerland, the women's team from one in France.
U.S. Skiing communications director Tom Kelly said the next step will be to evaluate whether to participate in the world championships that begin Tuesday in Austria.
"We will start to take a look at that" today, he said. "We have not formally stated we will not compete." Kelly said the event's opening ceremony, set for Monday, had been canceled and "it is not inconceivable" that the competition schedule would be changed.
The U.S. national governing bodies for speed skating, bobsled and luge said they still had national teams in Europe. None indicated it plans to bring home those teams, but U.S. International Speed Skating Association program director Katie Class said their teams would be traveling by land rather than air. It is still deciding whether to send a men's sprint team that was scheduled to leave the United States on Monday.
As for the Army's decision to withdraw its ads, the "be all that you can be" theme is "designed to be upbeat," said Col. John Myers, director of advertising and public affairs for the service's recruiting command. "It's designed to communicate various offers, such as scholarship programs. In the context of a shooting war, we felt that kind of message would not strike the chord we want."
Myers said the ads will not run for at least two weeks. They had been scheduled to air during college basketball broadcasts and the NFL conference championship games, but not the Super Bowl, he said. Marine Corps spokeswoman Maj. Nancy LaLuntas said that branch of the service was giving "some consideration" to a similar action.
Officials with the Atlantic Coast, Big East, Atlantic 10 and Southeastern conferences and the Colonial Athletic Association said their leagues plan to maintain their schedules in all sports, but will closely monitor the Gulf situation.
North Carolina Athletic Director John Swofford said he spoke with his counterpart at North Carolina State, Todd Turner, in an effort to reschedule the men's basketball game their schools postponed Wednesday. He said he and Turner were down to a couple of possible make-up dates and hoped to have an announcement today.