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NFL considering playing Pro Bowl in Arizona

Feb. 25, 2014
 
Team Sanders running back Eddie Lacy of the Green Bay Packers and is tackled by Team Rice's Derrick Johnson of the Kansas City Chiefs aduring the 2014 Pro Bowl on Jan. 26 at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu.
Team Sanders running back Eddie Lacy of the Green Bay Packers and is tackled by Team Rice's Derrick Johnson of the Kansas City Chiefs aduring the 2014 Pro Bowl on Jan. 26 at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu. / Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

The NFL is seriously considering moving the Pro Bowl from Hawaii to the Super Bowl site in Arizona this season to improve the game’s revenue and profile, according to a league source.

The source didn’t know whether the controversial Arizona bill that would allow businesses, based on religious beliefs, to refuse service to gay customers will play a factor in the league’s decision. However, some business leaders in Arizona are concerned that if the bill passes, the NFL might move the Super Bowl out of state, which presumably would preclude playing the Pro Bowl there as well.

The NFL played the Pro Bowl in the Super Bowl city once before, in 2010, when it was held in Miami. It’s been back in Hawaii since, but the source said the league thinks the game’s competitiveness this past season and more thorough planning than in ’10 could make it worth playing in the Super Bowl city again. The Pro Bowl is played the Sunday before the Super Bowl.

“They want to create an environment where they can bring more fans to it and get more of a revenue-generating experience for the NFL,” the source said. “Doing that in Hawaii, because of how far you have to get so much of your fan base, it’s tough. But if you do it in the states where it’s a significantly shorter flight and a less expensive flight, just the investment of getting people to the game – the feeling is as long as they can maintain the competitive nature of it, they can really turn it into a revenue generating experience.”

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has until 11:59 MST Saturday night to determine the bill’s fate. She’s being heavily pressured by some national Republicans and local business leaders to veto the bill (link: http://tinyurl.com/ok2j3pf).

Greg Aiello, an NFL spokesman, would not comment on the Pro Bowl other than to say in an email: “We haven't made any decisions on next year's Pro Bowl.”

According to a story today about the Super Bowl at azcentral.com (link http://tinyurl.com/mmjhzuc ), Aiello said the NFL is closely monitoring the bill’s outcome. The NFL has taken the Super Bowl from Arizona’s once before, in 1990, when it moved the January 1993 Super Bowl from Tempe, Ariz., to Pasadena, Calif., after Arizona voters rejected giving state workers a paid holiday on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

Super Bowl XLIX is scheduled for Feb. 1 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale.

“Our policies emphasize tolerance and inclusiveness and prohibit discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation or any other improper standard,” Aiello told azcentral.com. “We are following the issue in Arizona and will continue to do so should the bill be signed into law, but will decline further comment at this time.”

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