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NFL Strips Arizona of 1993 Super Bowl

March 20, 1991 GMT

KOHALA, Hawaii (AP) _ The NFL has stripped Phoenix of the 1993 Super Bowl over Arizona’s failure to enact a paid holiday honoring Martin Luther King.

NFL owners on Tuesday ratified football Commissioner Paul Tagliabue’s decision to take the league’s showcase game away and awarded it instead to Los Angeles.

″I sympathize with the people in Phoenix, I really do,″ said Art Modell, owner of the Cleveland Browns. ″But I don’t see how we had any choice.″

The owners tentatively awarded Arizona the 1996 game if a referendum on a King holiday like the one defeated last fall passes in 1992. That move came after Tagliabue and Arizona Gov. Fife Symington reached a compromise over the phone.

Officials in Arizona accused the NFL of sticking its nose into Arizona state politics.

″We have nothing to apologize for,″ said Phoenix Mayor Paul Johnson. ″I think the NFL has plenty to apologize for and should be ashamed of their actions.″

Sen. Dennis DeConcini, an Arizona Democrat, accused the NFL of hypocrisy because its offices in New York were open Jan. 21, the federal holiday honoring King.

″I was disappointed, of course, that a double standard has been applied,″ he said from Washington. ″It’s all right for the NFL not to honor Dr. King, but it’s not all right for Arizona.″

Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, who was in Hawaii to lobby for the game, said he was thrilled with the decision to hold the 1993 Super Bowl at the Rose Bowl, which last played host to the 1987 game.

″The 1993 Super Bowl will provide an economic bonanza to the Southern California region,″ Bradley said.

NFL owners last year awarded the game to Phoenix by a 16-12 vote.

The King issue surfaced afterward when Philadelphia Eagles owner Norman Braman, chairman of the site selection committee, said he would work to have the game removed if the state didn’t approve a holiday honoring the slain civil rights leader.

Braman was absent from the league contingent on Tuesday.

Tying the 1996 Super Bowl to another King referendum could set up the same kind of controversy that surrounded the referendum last fall, when proponents of the King holiday blamed NFL pressure for its failure.

Bill Bidwill, owner of the Phoenix Cardinals, said he didn’t think that would be a problem this time. ″I believe the political situation in Phoenix has changed dramatically,″ he said. ″I believe that the 1992 vote will pass.″

Bidwill said he was satisfied with the compromise that could place the 1996 Super Bowl in Phoenix.

″I think this is the best result we could have achieved under the circumstances,″ he said.

Symington said it was ″unfortunate″ the holiday was linked to the game.

Steve Roman, co-chairman of the group campaigning for a paid King holiday in Arizona, agreed.

″We want to completely separate the issue of having a Martin Luther King holiday in this state from having a Super Bowl in this state,″ Roman said. ″One should have nothing to do with the other.″