HONOLULU (AP) - Many NFL stars are hoping that when it comes to the Pro Bowl in Hawaii, aloha doesn’t mean goodbye.
The NFL all-star game doesn’t have a home beyond Sunday’s game. League and Hawaii officials are negotiating a deal to keep the game in the islands, which is hosting it for the second straight year after it was played in Miami in 2010, breaking a 30-year run in Hawaii.
“It takes away from the game when it’s somewhere else,” said Miami Dolphins receiver Brandon Marshall, who also selected to the Miami game two years ago. “It’s always a privilege. It’s always an honor to be selected to a Pro Bowl. But this is what the Pro Bowl is about _ paradise. So it would (stink) definitely if we no longer come out here.”
Some players went as far as saying they wouldn’t participate if the Pro Bowl was moved.
“That’s a lot of the players’ attitude, I think. If it’s in an NFL city, you’re in those cities quite often,” Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen said.
Allen and other players said the game belongs in Hawaii, where it’s more family oriented, relaxed and considered a reward for the hard work they put it during the season.
Jacksonville running back Maurice Jones-Drew’s first Pro Bowl was in Miami, which he said was a great experience.
“But it’s nothing like coming over to Hawaii. This is my first time here for the Pro Bowl, and it’s great,” he said.
In Hawaii, the players are treated to a beachside hotel to themselves. They sip on colorful, tropical drinks and lounge around the pool, golf or wade in one of the white-sand lagoons at Ko Olina Resort.
“In Miami, we didn’t have the whole hotel. You’re signing autographs 99 percent of the time at the hotel. It was just chaotic,” Allen said. “Guys weren’t showing up. You had a lot of alternates in and out. Over here, it’s kind of what everybody looks forward to. … I like it here. I’m a big fan of tradition. It started here. We should keep it here.”
But the Pro Bowl wasn’t born here. It was hosted for years in Los Angeles before jumping around the country in the 1970s, going everywhere from the Kingdome in Seattle to the Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City.
The game was first played at Aloha Stadium in 1980 with New Orleans Saints running back Chuck Muncie leading the NFC to a 37-27 victory. The winners earned $5,000. On Sunday, the winners earn nearly 10 times that amount.
The state is paying the NFL $4 million per game for the rights to hold this year’s game. About seven months ago, Gov. Neil Abercrombie opposed the cash-strapped state paying millions to host the Pro Bowl when the money could be used for education.
“You can’t do things like give 4 million bucks to a $9 billion football industry and not give any money to children,” Abercrombie said then. “You’ve got this spectacle of these multimillionaires and billionaires out there arguing about how they’re going to divide it up, and then they come and ask us to bribe them with $4 million to have a scrimmage out here in paradise.
“We’ve got to get our values straight and our priorities straight.”