NFL cancels Hall of Fame game
COLLEGE PARK, Ga. (AP) – The NFL canceled its Hall of Fame game between St. Louis and Chicago on Thursday despite owners voting in favor of a tentative deal to end the lockout, pending player approval.
The Rams and Bears originally were scheduled to open their training camps this weekend and play in the game to open the preseason schedule on Aug. 7 in Canton, Ohio. But NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the game had to be dropped because the Rams and Bears wouldn’t have ample time to prepare.
“The time is just too short,” he said. “Unfortunately, we will not be there to play the game there this year.”
Goodell added that the Hall of Fame induction ceremonies will go on as planned on Aug. 6. This year’s class of inductees includes Deion Sanders, Marshall Faulk, Shannon Sharpe and Richard Dent.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame said in a statement Thursday night that it was “disappointed” by the decision, which will have “a significant adverse economic impact” on both the hall and city of Canton. The hall added that it appreciated “the effort that was made on our behalf by the league and players right up until the last minute,” and that the long-term effects of a new agreement would be beneficial to all involved.
The game would have been televised nationally on NBC. Although it’s an exhibition, it was a major draw last year, boosted by an intriguing matchup between the always popular Dallas Cowboys and former receiver Terrell Owens’ Cincinnati Bengals.
That game was the highest-rated TV show of the week among the advertiser-coveted demographic of adults aged 18-49 and a close second overall to the season finale of “The Bachelorette” with 11.4 million viewers.
“We will be working with the NFL to determine how to complete our preseason package,” NBC Sports Group Chairman Mark Lazarus said in a statement.
The hall said it would issue full ticket refunds for fans who already purchased seats for the game.
The Bears were supposed to open camp Friday, but team president Ted Phillips said it was going to be difficult for the team to prepare to play the game because of the delay in getting back to work.
“Because we have Richard Dent being enshrined, it’s disappointing from that standpoint,” Phillips said, “but probably the most fair given the circumstances of the offseason that every team starts training camp on the same day.”
AP Sports Writer Andrew Seligman in Chicago contributed to this report.