The on-again, off-again Air Force/Navy football game remains off early Wednesday evening, according to an Air Force source.
With athletic travel suspended at service academies during the government shutdown, the teams have been in discussions throughout the past two days on ways to not only fund the game without using government or military funds, but to do so in a way that doesn’t lead to public backlash.
United Airlines has even entered the fray, offering to pay for Air Force’s travel in a publicity gesture that the academy has confirmed as being a legitimate.
The Associated Press reported that the games would be played, citing a senior defense official. The report said the decision would affect this weekend’s games only and would be paid for with non-appropriated funds.
An Air Force official, however, disputed that claim and said no decision had been made.
That’s how much of the day went, with social media announcements from Navy and an Air Force football player that Saturday’s soldout game would go as planned. Navy immediately followed with a retraction and the Air Force source said the player was not correct.
It was also reported that the game was set to go but needed the approval of the Secretary of Defense. The Capital Gazette said the game was expected to generate more than $4 million and quoted Navy athletic director Chret Gladchuck as saying “the emotional toll it would take would be incalculable. The financial toll it would take would be incalculable.”
Gladchuck told the paper he was told the potential cancelation or postponement of the game was about “optics,” as playing a game — even if government funds were not used — would not send a desirable message.
The odd twist of the day no doubt came from United, which tweeted: “We hate cancellations, so we’re offering to fly
@AF_Academy to this year’s Air Force-Navy game. Retweet if you agree.”
A deadline of 10 a.m. Thursday to make a decision about the game has been in place since early Tuesday.