Pro Football and the American Spirit: The NFL and the U.S. Armed Forces
May 25, 2013 - Sep 22, 2013
Pro Football and the American Spirit: The NFL and the U.S. Armed Forces is an inspirational exhibition from the Pro Football Hall of Fame which chronicles the many ways in which the National Football League and its players have responded to America’s call during military conflicts.
This exhibition recalls the stories of triumph, tragedy and personal sacrifice made by the more than 1,200 players, coaches and administrators who interrupted or delayed their pro football careers to serve their country during times of military conflict.
Included are the stories of how the NFL generated millions of dollars in War Bond sales during World War II, was the first sports organization to send groups of players to Vietnam as part of the NFL/USO “goodwill tours,” and how it has used its game and resources to raise America’s collective level of patriotism during and after such national crises as the Iranian hostage situation, the Gulf War and following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York City, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania.
Some of the items which highlight this exhibition include Pro Football Hall of Famer Art Donovan’s Army uniform; the career medals of General Earnest Cheatham (pro football’s highest ranking former player); the Cleveland Browns sideline jacket of Don Steinbrunner, one of only two NFL players to perish during the Vietnam War and Pat Tillman’s Army Ranger uniform.
A number of local heroes are represented in the exhibition. Stockton developer and philanthropist Alex G. Spanos, who purchased the San Diego Chargers in 1984, enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1942, training as a pilot before transferring out of flight school to become a B-29 gunner until 1946.
Spanos helped more than 145 World War II veterans and their families from Northern California visit the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. He also headed a campaign during the Gulf War crisis that raised more than $4.5 million for the United Service Organizations, the largest fundraising event in the organization’s history.
University of the Pacific football sensation Eddie LeBaron accepted a commission in the U.S. Marine Corps in August 1950 and spent nine months in Korea, seven of which were on the front line, where he was twice wounded. For his heroic efforts in a hard-fought battle at Korea’s Heartbreak Ridge, he was awarded the Bronze Star.
LeBaron was the NFL’s Rookie of the Year in 1952, led the league in passing in 1958 and was a four-time Pro Bowl selection during his 11-year career with the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys.
LeBaron will be in attendance at the opening reception on Saturday, June 1, 6-9 p.m., featuring signature dishes, desserts and drinks from some of the area’s best restaurants, caterers, wineries and breweries.
PRO FOOTBALL HALL OF FAME
This exhibition was created by the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, where the American Professional Football Association (later renamed the National Football League) was founded in 1920.
Its mission is to honor individuals who have made outstanding contributions to professional football; to preserve professional football’s historic documents and artifacts; to educate the public regarding the origin, development and growth of professional football as an important part of American culture and to promote the positive values of the sport.