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Players want Pro Bowl to stay in Hawaii

January 26, 2012
By JAYMES SONG , The Associated Press

HONOLULU - 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 in 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.

The state is paying the NFL $4 million for the rights to hold this year's game. About seven months ago, Gov. Neil Abercrombie opposed the state paying millions to host the Pro Bowl when the money could be used for education.

"We've got to get our values straight and our priorities straight," he said then.

On Tuesday, however, Abercrombie changed his tune when he crashed the NFL's press conference and spoke in favor of keeping the game here. The governor said the state would like to continue hosting the game, "and we're going to do everything we can to make sure that comes about in a fashion that will make everybody very, very happy."

Last year's Pro Bowl attracted 17,000 visitors to the state, generated $28.2 million in visitor spending and created $3.1 million in state taxes from people who traveled to attend the game.

Denver Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey is no stranger to the islands. Bailey is making his 11th trip to the Pro Bowl.

"A lot of people wouldn't come to Hawaii if not for the Pro Bowl," Bailey said. "It would be disappointing if they moved it, but I have no say in it. If I did, I would say keep it here because I love it here."



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