The National Football League is planning tributes on the field, inside stadiums and during broadcasts of certain games on Sept. 11, the first Sunday of regular-season games and the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the United States.
In a joint statement with the NFL Players Association, the league said it hopes to "unite fans to recognize those who lost their lives, honor the families who lost loved ones, and salute the American spirit, the early responders on 9/11, and other heroes that contributed to the nation's recovery."
Knowing that Sept. 11 was the first full day of the NFL season, the league specifically designed its schedule to mark the tragedy with four games in particular:
- Pittsburgh at Baltimore at 1 p.m. to commemorate the crash of hijacked Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pa., between the two cities
- New York Giants at Washington Redskins at 4:15 p.m. to commemorate the Pentagon attack
- Carolina at Arizona at 4:15 p.m., where there will be ceremonies to honor former Cardinals' player Pat Tillman, who joined the armed services after Sept. 11 and was later killed in action
- Dallas Cowboys at the New York Jets at 8 p.m., the Sunday Night Football matchup taking place just over the Hudson River from where the Twin Towers fell 10 years ago
The league plans to synch its pregame salutes during the Sunday afternoon games on CBS and Fox, followed by a special Sunday night presentation from MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. on NBC for the Jets-Cowboys game. The pregame events that will be televised nationally also will be shown on videoboards in each of the stadiums hosting games that day.
The 1 p.m., 4:15 p.m. and Sunday Night Football games will feature a video introduction followed by performances of "Taps" from near the sites of the attacks and moments of silence. Coaches, players and local first responders and other heroes will come together to hold field-length American flags for the playing of the National Anthem prior to each game. The nationally televised Cowboys-Jets game at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. will feature additional pregame and halftime presentations.
Players, coaches and sideline personnel will also wear a special NFL 9/11 ribbon as a patch or pin. All stadiums hosting games on September 11 will feature the ribbon logo on the field.
Major League Baseball also plans a full day of tributes on its schedule for Sept. 11. "Across the league, we'll treat this like the most important of commemorative events that we have on our schedule. Because it is ," said Tim Brosnan, MLB's exec VP-business operations.
"The thing that Major League Baseball and the NFL did so well and so naturally in the days immediately after 9/11 was to use their public platform to deflect attention away from themselves and focus it toward the many ordinary heroes and heroic sacrifices that were made," said Robert Boland, Clinical Associate Professor of Sports Management at New York University. "The commemoration of the 10th anniversary of 9/11 on the part of leagues and teams demands a similar tone."
MLB is planning a special video message being produced by MLB Productions to play at all stadiums; an on-field moment of remembrance and silence; commemorative base jewels and line-up cards; a 9/11 MLB remembrance logo in-stadium; and the singing of "God Bless America" during the 7th inning stretch.
The New York Mets, who have a home game on Sept. 11, are finalizing plans for a tribute. The Washington Nationals are planning several tributes for their home game on that day, including pre-game ceremonies to pay tribute to victims, their families and rescue, military, aid and law-enforcement workers. The team, which has been working with contacts at the Department of Defense and the Pentagon to ensure the observance is both comprehensive and respectful, will host families of the victims, first responders and survivors of the attacks and wear special patriotic uniforms for the game, as well as donate a portion of the game proceeds.
The NFL also announced this week that the league and the Players Association will contribute $1 million to three memorials and two charities related to the events of September 11, 2001.