SAN DIEGO (Oct. 26, 2003) -- The NFL moved
Monday night's Chargers-Dolphins game from San Diego to Tempe,
Ariz., because of wildfires in the San Diego area.
Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said in a statement that the city of San
Diego advised the league it could not play the game in Qualcomm Stadium.
The sky throughout the county was choked with smoke and ash from three
fast-moving fires that burned more than 264,000 acres, killed 13 people
and burned nearly 650 homes by Sunday evening. The state's largest fire,
in eastern San Diego County, caused at least nine deaths.
Statement from the NFL
The residents of greater San Diego are suffering from terrible
fires, and public health and safety are the urgent priorities.
The City of San Diego has advised us that under these circumstances, Monday
night's game between the San Diego Chargers and Miami Dolphins
cannot be played at Qualcomm Stadium.
NFL Commissioner Paul
Tagliabue has directed that Monday night's game be played at Sun
Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz., at 9:00 p.m. ET. This decision will
allow San Diego public safety agencies to maintain their full
focus on protecting the lives and property of San Diego residents.
The game will be televised live on ABC-TV as usual.
Mayor Dick Murphy urged the NFL to either postpone or move the game and
Chargers general manager A.J. Smith said he also told the league the
game shouldn't be played in San Diego.
"I just can't see us turning around and going to our stadium and playing
Monday Night Football," he said. "There's too much devastation going on
for that. Too much.
"I think the league did the right thing. To turn around and run out of
the tunnel at Qualcomm with all the things going on, it wasn't right for
Monday night's game was to be a homecoming for linebacker
Junior Seau, who played his first 13 seasons in San Diego before
joining the Dolphins this year as a free agent.
"Moving the game is very disappointing to everyone," Seau said, "but
obviously for the safety of everyone it is probably the best decision to
make right now.
"Our prayers are with the San Diego residents and everyone that is
affected by it."
Tickets to the game on the campus of Arizona State University will be
free, but people will be asked to make a donation to the San Diego
Wildfire Relief Fund.
"Many of us visit San Diego. Obviously it's a neighboring community
that's got some real problems," Cardinals vice president and general
counsel Michael Bidwill said. "We can all raise a little bit of money
... and try to help out our friends over in San Diego."
Chargers ticket holders will get full refunds, the team said.
Qualcomm Stadium's parking lot was turned into a major evacuation center
as residents from several surrounding neighborhoods were ordered out of
their homes by authorities.
The Dolphins left Miami on Sunday morning aware that the San Diego
airport could be closed when they arrived. But the airport reopened by
the time they reached California.
They left their equipment on the chartered plane, held their scheduled
meetings as planned in a San Diego hotel, and were scheduled to leave
early Monday morning for Tempe.
"The game of football is secondary right now, and I hate to see it
happen to my hometown or any hometown," Seau said.
The NFL moved a game between the Patriots and 49ers from Candlestick
Park in San Francisco to Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto, Calif., on Oct.
22, 1989, after the Bay Area earthquake damaged Candlestick.
In 1992, the league rescheduled the season opener between New England
and Miami from Sept. 6 to Oct. 18 because of damage from Hurricane
Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe is the home of the Arizona Cardinals, who
beat San Francisco 16-13 there in Week 8.
This will be the fourth Monday night game at Sun Devil Stadium. The last
one was in 1999, when 49ers quarterback Steve Young's career was ended
on a hit by Aeneas Williams of Arizona.
The Associated Press News Service
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