On Dec. 7, 1941, crowd at Redskins game was kept in the dark about attack
On Dec. 7, 1941, the Washington Redskins were playing the Philadelphia Eagles in Griffith Stadium and the public address announcer kept calmly paging military and government personnel. Washington Post sports columnist Shirley Povich was there that day and pieced together what was happening, news that was kept from the crowd.
In the stands, the Redskin fans were 27,102 innocents. They had a preoccupation, anyway, because Slingin' Sammy Baugh had the Redskins in a drive deep into Eagles territory in the so-far scoreless game.
They had not even a hint of a hint that their country had just been mugged into World War II, that the lives of thousands of U.S. soldiers and sailors had just been lost in a dastardly sneak attack in the Pacific.
Two other NFL games were underway that day: at the Polo Grounds in New York and at Comiskey Park in Chicago. For the record, the Chicago Bears beat the Chicago Cardinals 34-24 and the Brooklyn Dodgers beat the New York Giants 21-7. At Griffith Stadium, the crowd was unknowingly enjoying its last few carefree moments.
At the game's end, at the stadium's exit, the Redskins crowd that had thrilled to Baugh's two fourth-quarter touchdown passes for a 20-14 Redskins victory experienced mass shock. Newsboys shouting "Extra papers!" were flourishing newspapers with big headlines that screamed "U.S. at War."
For almost three hours the stadium crowd had been ignorant of the sneak attack on their country, deliberately kept from them on orders of Redskins owner George Preston Marshall. On a day when the United States was suddenly plunged into the biggest war in history, with thousands of Americans already dead or dying, Marshall ordered his staff to make no public announcement to the stadium crowd.
Marshall's later explanation was a statement of his priorities, peculiar to himself: "I didn't want to divert the fans' attention from the game."
Whether to share the news of a significant event is a moot point today. So, seemingly, is the decision whether the games should go on. On another historic weekend, the Sunday after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963, NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle decreed that the games would be played, a decision he later regretted. The American Football League did not play its games that day.
Almost 30 years later, on the weekend after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Commissioner Paul Tagliabue postponed the day's slate of games.
| December 7, 2010; 8:48 AM ET
Categories: NFL, Redskins
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