Rubino: How CBS exec, NFL player stepped up after JFK death

  • Robert Rubino

It was a no-brainer, long before the term came into vogue.

Of course you cancel professional football games scheduled to be played 48 hours after the president of the United States has been assassinated.

Well, you do if you're Joe Foss, World War II fighter pilot awarded the Medal of Honor and, in 1963, commissioner of the American Football League. And you don't think twice about your league's television contract with ABC.

On Nov. 22, 1963, a Friday, John F. Kennedy was murdered in Dallas, the fourth presidential assassination in United States history, and the first in 62 years. The event was a cataclysmic shock, instantly and in some ways forever traumatizing a nation, and only those not yet alive at the time might think that statement is an exaggeration.

But if you're Pete Rozelle, the 37-year-old NFL commissioner with a mostly public relations background, the show must go on, and to rationalize your decision you issue the following statement: "It has been traditional in sports for athletes to perform in times of great personal tragedy. Football was Mr. Kennedy's game. He thrived on competition."

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