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091618-blm-loc-2bicentennial-bears

A team photo of the original Decatur Staleys.

The National Football League should reevaluate which communities will be hosting events during next month's draft.

The NFL, celebrating its 100th anniversary, is having draft selections made in eight of the original 13 team towns. There will be live broadcasts, as well as celebrations featuring fans and NFL legends.

Dayton, Ohio, for example, is having a pick made on the field used then.

"This is a really special moment for our city," Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley said. "We're excited that the NFL is recognizing the places that were there in the very beginning and that they are celebrating Dayton's special history in paving the way for the league with a donation that will leave a lasting impact in the community."

We agree.

But so did Decatur.

Long before "Da Bears" and Ditka, the Bears were the Decatur Staleys. It's the reason the Bears mascot is named "Staley Da Bear," an homage to Decatur industrialist A.E. Staley.

Decatur is where George Halas, who spent a year playing for the Hammond All-Stars in 1919, moved south to work as a sales rep for A. E. Staley Manufacturing Co. and play on the company football team. A University of Illinois graduate, he picked the school's colors of orange and blue to represent the Staleys. It stuck – and so did he.

After the team moved to Chicago in 1920, he was head coach and later team owner, becoming a towering legend in Bears lore.

His eldest daughter, Virginia McCaskey, is still the principal owner, and told the Chicago Tribune she marvels at how far the team -- and the sport -- has come.

"For instance, we now have more than 20 coaches. And if you look at the original pictures of the Decatur Staleys and the Chicago Bears, that was the whole squad (back then) -- including the coaches. Because the two coaches were also players. And the players played the whole game. So it was a different world," she said.

To recognize the extraordinary growth, the NFL said it will honor the charter communities and teams: the Akron Pros, Canton Bulldogs, Cleveland Tigers and Columbus Panhandles in Ohio; Buffalo All-Americans and Rochester Jeffersons in New York; Hammond Pros and Muncie Flyers in Indiana; the Detroit Heralds; and the Racine Cardinals, Chicago Tigers and Rock Island Independents in Illinois, along with Decatur.

But only eight -- Akron, Canton, Columbus, Hammond, Muncie, Rochester and Rock Island -- are getting draft events.

That's a shame.

The Bears are an important part of the NFL legacy, as proven by the league's selection to start the 100th season with the Bears-Packers game on Sept. 5 at Soldier Field. That prime-time opening spot is typically reserved for the Super Bowl champion, but it went to the Monsters of the Midway because of the team's long history. Various events are planned across Lake Shore Drive in Grant Park.

"With the 100th season, we want to do something to kick it off in a special way," said Hans Schroeder, the league's chief operating officer of media, told the Tribune. "We're celebrating the Bears, one of the original member clubs, in their 100th season, and the Packers are in their 101st."

We agree.

That's why the NFL should look to where the Bears really started, where the seeds of the NFL were planted. Decatur would be an excellent host to events.

The Staley Mansion, occupied by the Staley family during their ownership of the team, is a beautiful museum full of team memorabilia and showcase of the league's roots.

Decatur takes pride in our role in developing what is the NFL today.

It started here.

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