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NFL considers suspending the 2013 Pro Bowl

By Barry Wilner

AP Pro Football Writer

LAST UPDATED: 10:39 a.m. HST, Apr 26, 2012

NEW YORK >> Two people familiar with discussions say the Pro Bowl could be suspended next year.

Commissioner Roger Goodell has expressed concerns about the quality of play, and the league is holding talks with the players' union about the future of the all-star game. The people were speaking on condition of anonymity because the NFL has not made the discussions public. They tell The Associated Press that among the options being discussed is suspending the game next January.

Responding to an ESPN report that Goodell is "strongly considering" suspending the game for the upcoming season, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told The AP: "No determination has been made yet."

(Hawaii Tourism Authority President Mike McCartney said talks continued today with the NFL about holding next year’s Pro Bowl in Hawaii.

“We want the game in Hawaii,” McCartney said this morning. “We’re negotiating in good faith.”

McCartney said suspending the Pro Bowl next year “has always been a possibility.”

But he said the state would want to continue a partnership with the NFL even if the Pro Bowl is suspended or eliminated.

“There’s no question Hawaii wants to continue its partnership with the NFL in different ways.”

McCartney declined to provide details about how the partnership might continue or on the status of the negotiations.)

The AFC’s 59-41 win in Honolulu in January often resembled touch football. The game still gets solid TV ratings — although viewership dropped 8.1 percent in January, the Pro Bowl still was the highest-rated sports program of the weekend.

But it’s also costly, particularly when played in Hawaii. And with so many defections — there were 20 replacements for non-participating players in 2012, including Pro Bowlers from the Giants and Patriots who were otherwise occupied with the Super Bowl — is the game still considered something special by the players?

Newly elected NFLPA President Domonique Foxworth tweeted Thursday: “The Pro Bowl is an important tradition we are in talks with the league to improve and preserve the game for our players and fans”

Hawaii started hosting the game in 1980 and it was held there annually until 2010, when it was moved to Miami and played the week before the Super Bowl there. Before moving it that year, the NFL expressed the need for a more modern stadium in Hawaii to host the Pro Bowl.

The game returned to Hawaii in 2011, but the site for next year’s game is up in the air, given the discussions between the league and the union.

“We have had lots of talks with the players about the Pro Bowl,” NFL counsel Jeff Pash said last week. “When should it be played? Where? And certainly the quality of the game.

“We understand what contributes to the low quality of the game. It does not mean very much either financially or competitively. Players are reluctant to participate in a way that they could be injured. It’s not going to ever look like a playoff game, but it needs to improve so fans don’t say, ‘I feel bad watching it.”’


Star-Advertiser reporter Dave Reardon contributed to this story.

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