Pictured: Rodney King. During the 1992 riots in Los Angeles, the Dodgers canceled four games in a row.
There were seven separate terror attacks in Paris. The first two killed four people (three suicide bombers and one civilian), outside Stade de France, the national sports stadium. France was playing Germany in an international friendly soccer match at the time.
The first explosion happened at 9:20 p.m., 20 minutes after the game started. The Daily Mail reports, “The first bomber was prevented from entering the stadium after a security guard patted him down and discovered the suicide vest, a few seconds after being turned away, he detonated his suicide vest, killing himself and a bystander.” Strange sentence, reads like the guard’s attitude was, Hey, you can’t come in here wearing a suicide vest.
The second explosion occurred ten minutes later outside Gate H. Number three, at 9:53 p.m., went off near a neighboring McDonald’s.
And yet the match continued on its way ending with a 2–0 victory for France. Which seems a little weird since everybody has a cell phone. And yes, you could argue it was safer to tell the crowd nothing and let the game continue. Either way, it brings to mind a question: What does it take for a professional sports team or league to cancel a game or games?
On our 9/11, Major League Baseball shut down all its games. The Thoroughbred Racing Association canceled its events, as did NASCAR, Division 1A college football, and Major League Soccer. The PGA Tour canceled Thursday starts for the World Golf Championship and American Express Championship. The NFL, “...said it wasn’t sure what it would do with this weekend’s schedule.”
The NFL is slow about these things. President Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963. Most Division 1 college football games were canceled. The AFL, soon to merge with the NFL, canceled all their games. The NFL played on as usual, causing sportswriter and Pulitzer Prize laureate Red Smith to write, “In the civilized world, it was a day of mourning. In the National Football League, it was the 11th Sunday of the business year...”
The Vegas Line: NFL Week 12 (Home team in caps)
After 9/11, while the NFL was wondering what to do, Kevin Mawae and Michael Strahan of the New York Jets and Giants, respectively, said they’d be willing to forfeit rather than play. NFL player reps agreed. In a rare display of common sense the NFL postponed their weekend schedule.
MLB games have been canceled due to weather (snowstorms, hurricanes), riots, and on one occasion, rampant drunkenness.
The Baltimore riots of April 2015 caused the Orioles to postpone two games against the White Sox, then play a third game, but to an empty house. Fans were not allowed to attend (the attendance was officially recorded as zero). Then, Baltimore moved a scheduled home series against Tampa Bay to that team’s stadium in Florida.
The 1967 Detroit riot lasted five days, left 43 dead, 1189 injured, more than 2000 buildings destroyed. The Tigers moved a scheduled home series against the Orioles to Baltimore. During the 1992 Los Angeles Rodney King riot, the Dodgers canceled four games in a row.
Then, there’s drunkenness. To wit: Ten Cent Beer Night. For a June 4, 1974, promotion, the Cleveland Indians offered unlimited 10-cent beers. By the ninth inning so many fans were drunk that a riot ensued, stopping play, causing Cleveland to forfeit the game.
Baseball canceled an entire day’s schedule on D-Day, June 6, 1944. There’s that and there’s 9/11. The only other time baseball canceled a day’s schedule was August 2, 1923, marking the death of president Warren G. Harding.
On December 7, 1941, the last Sunday of the NFL’s regular season, there were three games being played. Chicago Bears were playing the Chicago Cardinals (aka Arizona Cardinals), the New York Giants were playing the Brooklyn Dodgers (R.I.P. 1945), and the Philadelphia Eagles played Washington. All games were in progress when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.
According to SportsThenAndNow, “Word of the attacks started to spread while all three games were in action and the public address announcers at the Polo Grounds in New York and Comiskey Park in Chicago interrupted the game to tell all servicemen to report to their units. At Griffith Stadium in Washington the announcer paged high-ranking government and military personnel at the game but did not mention the attack.”
What’s interesting, at least to me, is that in each case it’s up to the league or team. There’s no Commission on Whether to Cancel Sporting Events After a Big National Tragedy. And the reason for cancellation might be local, or national, or in the case of D-Day, international. It might even be for the passing of, according to a 1982 survey of both liberal and conservative historians, the worst president the United States ever had.