Exhibit honors NFL’s military response


CANTON, Ohio – The Pro Football Hall of Fame and the National Football League have joined forces to produce a unique museum exhibit titled “Football and America.”

The exhibit, which debuted Jan. 29 at the NFL Experience in New Orleans, La., as a part of the Super Bowl XXXVI celebration, explores the many ways in which the NFL and its players have responded to America’s call during times of national crises and military conflicts.

Following a three-day stay at the NFL Experience, the exhibit will move to New Orleans’ D-Day Museum for two-weeks, before reopening in late February at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton.

Prepared by the Hall of Fame, the exhibit chronicles the contributions and sacrifices made by the NFL and its players during national emergencies.

Plenty of stories. It recalls stories like how the NFL, while struggling for its own survival during World War II, generated millions of dollars in War Bond sales, and donated the revenues from 15 exhibition games to service charities.

It recounts how, in 1966, the NFL became the first sports organization to send groups of players to Vietnam as a part of the NFL/USO “goodwill tours.”

Also documented are stories of personal sacrifice made by players who interrupted or delayed their pro football careers to first serve their country as members of the military.

Heroism. Acts of heroism, like that of pro football’s three Congressional Medal of Honor winners Maurice Britt, Joe Foss, and Jack Lummus are recognized, as well as inspirational stories like that of Chicago Cardinals fullback Mario “Motts” Tonelli, who survived three and a half years as a World War II prisoner of war.

The exhibit also chronicles how the NFL has used its game and resources to raise America’s collective level of patriotism during and after such national crisis as the Iranian hostage situation, the Gulf War, and most recently following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Serving their country. Brought to life through the use of film, artifacts, and photos from the Hall of Fame’s collections the exhibit features as its centerpiece an honor roll that lists the more than 1,200 known NFL personnel who were members of the armed forces during World War II, the Korean War, and Vietnam War.

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