Facebook Twitter



The NFL has officially stripped Arizona of the 1993 Super Bowl and ended the debate over the state's failure to enact a paid holiday on Martin Luther King's birthday.

But it's a debate that's likely to spring up again a year from now.On a day on which they approved instant replay for a sixth year by the 21-7 vote that has become customary, the owners ratified commissioner Paul Tagliabue's decision to take their showcase game from Arizona because the state's voters turned down a referendum to celebrate the King holiday.

It was awarded instead to Los Angeles and will be played at the Rose Bowl, which last played host to the 1987 game.

But they also tentatively awarded Arizona the 1996 game as the result of a compromise between Tagliabue and Arizona Gov. Fife Symington, agreed to in a long telephone conversation.

That, however, sets up the same kind of controversy that surrounded the referendum last fall, when proponents of the King holiday blamed NFL pressure to remove the game if it failed for the negative vote.

"I know we can support this important game and provide the amenities necessary for a gala on the scale of the 1984 Olympic Games," Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley said of the game. "In addition, the 1993 Super Bowl will provide an economic bonanza to the Southern California region as it embarks on the preparations for this incomparable event."

Bill Bidwill, the owner of the Phoenix Cardinals, said he wasn't worried about the "linkage" issue for next year's referendum.

"I believe the political situation in Phoenix has changed dramatically," Bidwill said. "I believe that the 1992 vote will pass."

Tagliabue said other factors would be involved in the final decision to give the game to Phoenix beyond the 1992 referendum. "Factors that go into our final decision will be determined when we make our final decision," he said, without specifying when that will be.

But Tagliabue said he was satisfied with what was done as a solution "to what was a difficult subject for everyone."

Asked if he thought the problem could be avoided, he replied: "That's Monday morning quarterbacking just as it would be if you questioned what was done in the league championship games."

The instant replay issue also will be back next year after the owners once again approved it by the minimum vote of 21-7. A three-quarters vote is required on all major votes.

The vote went just about the same way as last season, with only two teams changing their votes - the Detroit Lions from for it to against it; the Tampa Bay Bucs from against it to for it. The other "no" votes came from the regulars - Buffalo, Chicago, the New York Giants, Kansas City, Cincinnati and Phoenix.

"I think we might have gotten it in for two years this time," said New Orleans' Jim Finks, chairman of the rule-making competition committee. "But I don't think we could have gotten it in permanently this time."

Still, it looked like permanent instant replay may be coming closer.

"It's clear the fans are used to it," said Phil Krueger, the Bucs' general manager, in explaining why his team changed its vote. "It's become a part of the tradition of the game. We ought to be in the forefront of technology."

Tagliabue's aim on the Phoenix question has been to stay ahead of the civil rights issue.

On Monday he suggested that the NFL was being treated by Arizona as "carpetbaggers" who were being blamed for internal problems in the state. In fact, the King holiday first passed by the legislature was repealed by Gov. Evan Mecham, who was later impeached. Mecham also was behind the drive that put the issue on the ballot when the holiday was passed again.

NFL owners, who last year awarded the game to Phoenix by a 16-12 vote, were clearly troubled by the politics - they originally gave the game to Phoenix to help Bidwill, whose family has been in the league for 50 years.

And the King issue didn't really surface until after the game had been awarded when Norman Braman of Philadelphia, chairman of the site selection committee, said in response to a question that he would work to have the game removed if the state didn't approve a holiday. Braman was visibly absent from the league contingent on Tuesday.

"I sympathize with the people in Phoenix, I really do," said Art Modell, owner of the Cleveland Browns and one of the league's influential owners. "But I don't see how we had any choice."

Officials of the Cardinals, who have had troubles both on and off the field in their three seasons in Arizona, were most concerned about the effect the league's move would have on the team.

"A lot of that has been transferred to us," said Joe Rhein, the team's vice president. "If we can start winning, I think a lot of it will go away, but for the time being, we'll have to re-establish ourselves."