Although some NFL team owners sought postponements, stadiums nationwide were full, each with their moments of silence. NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle, under fire by many for the decision, explained, "It has been traditional in sports for athletes to perform in times of great personal tragedy. Football was Mr. Kennedy's game. He thrived on competition."
In September 2001, as a direct result of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, MLB halted all games through Sept. 16, the NFL postponed its games on Sept. 16-17, and NASCAR, the PGA and the NCAA were among the other sports organizations that cancelled and/or postponed events.
Sept. 11, 2011, will mark the 10th anniversary of 9/11, with memorials and events to be held worldwide. But falling on a Sunday, there will be a full schedule of sports events, including: 13 NFL games as part of the league's opening weekend, 15 MLB games and the men's singles finals at the U.S. Tennis Open in New York.
Should those events have been postponed?
"I was [in New York] that day, and no one's ever going to forget it anywhere in the world," said tennis icon and native New Yorker John McEnroe. "People are doing the right things to pay their respects, but they need to play the schedule the way it was meant to be played."
On Sept. 21, 2001, the New York Mets hosted the Atlanta Braves in the first post-9/11 game at Shea Stadium. Later that season, the New York Yankees played in the World Series. Both events, with their respective memorials, emotions and on-field highlights, according to many, helped to keep the U.S. united and focused.
"One of the things that brought people together [was] when people started getting back on the field," said McEnroe. "Like the baseball game at Shea Stadium and the subsequent World Series and the Yankees and the effect that that had on bringing people together. The willingness of people to go out and be in a stadium again and show the people that we're going to keep doing the things that we love to do."
The NFL, MLB , the U.S. Tennis Association and NASCAR will be among the sports groups honoring the 10th anniversary of those who perished on 9/11 in New York, Washington, D.C., and a field outside of Shanksville, Pa., as well as those who subsequently responded to help in the days, weeks and months following the attack.
The NFL's schedule includes the New York Giants visiting the Washington Redskins and the Dallas Cowboys in New York to play the Jets. According to NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy, "We designed the schedule in a manner that would enable us to help appropriately commemorate, on a national level, September 11 and what it represents to Americans."
MLB is overseeing a Sept. 11 remembrance, with each team honoring in its own way the fallen. The schedule includes the Yankees at the Los Angeles Angels, the Houston Astros visiting the Washington Nationals and the Chicago Cubs in a night game against the Mets. The Mets, which have been strong supporters of such 9/11 groups as Tuesday's Children, will have among others at Citi Field family members of victims and those who were part of the follow-up response.
At the U.S. Open in Flushing, Queens, officials and players will honor the anniversary of 9/11 in various ways. The inscription "9-11-01" will be painted at center court, and the USTA will replace a USOpen.org logo on the upper ring encircling Arthur Ashe Stadium with the 9/11 memorial logo developed by the City of New York. Special performances by Cyndi Lauper prior to the women's singles final on Sept. 10 and Queen Latifah on Sept. 11 will also be part of the events over the two-week tournament.
According to USTA spokesman Chris Widmaier, "We wanted to create a ceremony that balances respect and dignity on this solemn occasion."
NBC, which is showing the Jets game, CBS covering the women's and men's tennis singles finals and ESPN are among the networks planning special sports-related presentations.
"We'll have coverage of how sports treats the day on our various shows, including ... 'SportsCenter' from the U.S. Open [on Sept. 11] at 10 p.m.," said ESPN spokesman Dave Nagle. "[In 2001] getting back to normal was part of the healing process and keeping what happened in mind is appropriate. But [so is] moving forward with our lives."
Expected to be in New York on Sept. 11 for a memorial service at Ground Zero are President Obama and former President George W. Bush, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and former Gov. George Pataki, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg and former Mayor Rudy Giuliani. It is not known whom if any will attend the Mets game, the U.S. Open or the Jets game.