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Leagues pledge Katrina aid

Players will donate $1 million also toward relief efforts

Red Cross worker Ginny Angerer, left, looks for a vein in Heidi Thomas' arm for blood donation before Thursday's Saints-Raiders game.
Red Cross worker Ginny Angerer, left, looks for a vein in Heidi Thomas' arm for blood donation before Thursday's Saints-Raiders game.
Ben Margot, Associated Press

NEW YORK — Major League Baseball, the NBA and the Southeastern Conference will each donate $1 million to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina, with the two professional leagues committing to generate a total of $2 million in aid.

MLB and its players' association and the NBA and its teams have each pledged $1 million to the American Red Cross. The National Basketball Players Association has also said it will raise $1 million for disaster relief.

Red Cross workers were outside several NFL stadiums Thursday night to collect donations and draw blood from fans attending preseason games.

"Major League Baseball wants to do its share to help those who are suffering from the devastating wreckage caused by Hurricane Katrina," commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement Thursday. "I thank the players' association for joining us in making this initial contribution and I thank in advance our clubs, players, employees, business partners and fans who offer assistance in the days ahead."

In addition to the SEC's donation, the league announced Thursday that each of its 12 universities will coordinate fund-raising efforts at home football games during the next several weeks.

"Hurricane Katrina has devastated the lives of victims in four of the SEC's states, Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi, and may continue to do so for months and years to come," SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said.

Alabama football fans have been asked to give up their hotel rooms this weekend to evacuees.

Hotels around Tuscaloosa are booked leading to the school's football opener Saturday night against Middle Tennessee, and those reservations could displace evacuees currently staying in the rooms, athletic director Mal Moore said.

"The human tragedy as a result of Katrina is staggering and I know Crimson Tide fans will do what they can to help those who are not able to immediately return to their homes," Moore said.

Alabama's Student Recreation Center is also serving as a Red Cross shelter for hundreds of evacuees.

Baseball will pass collection plates at all 15 games on Sept. 7 — Roberto Clemente Day — and has offered to match up to $1 million in proceeds. Players will wear Red Cross patches and bases will include the logo and a telephone number to call to contribute to the relief effort. The 15 visiting teams will host individual relief efforts on future dates.

Clemente, a Hall of Fame outfielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates, died on Dec. 31, 1972, during a relief effort in Nicaragua. He was delivering goods to earthquake victims when his plane crashed.

Major League Baseball also announced a $1 donation for every item purchased at MLB.com.

Several other organizations announced relief efforts on Thursday. The U.S Tennis Association will donate $500,000 from U.S. Open proceeds to the American Red Cross for affected communities. Commercials devoted to the relief effort will be aired during Open broadcasts, and public service announcements will be made on the grounds of the National Tennis Center. Fans attending the Open can make donations beginning Friday.

The Metrostars will hold a silent auction during Saturday's game at Giants Stadium to benefit AmeriCares and the Red Cross, while Tennessee Titans quarterback Steve McNair announced through his foundation that he'll send six tractor-trailers with supplies for Katrina victims in his home state of Mississippi. A 12-hour relief drive will be held Tuesday in the parking lot at The Coliseum in Nashville.

Sheila Johnson, president and managing partner of the WNBA's Washington Mystics, donated $500,000 to the American Red Cross to help with relief. Two Mystics players are from Louisiana — Temeka Johnson and Alana Beard.

Ohio State will help relief efforts by donating $2 from each football program sold in September and by collecting money from fans at Ohio Stadium.