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ABC, ESPN, NFL Set Katrina Telethon

ABC Sports, ESPN and the National Football League will team up on a fund-raising telethon Monday to benefit the recovery and rebuilding efforts in the GulfCoast region following Hurricane Katrina.

Robin Roberts of ABC’s Good Morning America and ESPN’s Chris Berman will co-host the telethon, which kicks off at 7:30 p.m. (EST) and will run from ABC’s Times Square studio in New York throughout the two NFL games that night.

Current and Hall of Fame NFL players who will participate in answering phone calls and accepting pledges will include Marcus Allen, Eric Dickerson, Steve Largent, Ronnie Lott, Chad Pennington and Bart Starr. ABC’s Regis Philbin will also visit the studio, and other ABC celebrities and ESPN commentators will be involved.

The first game kicks off at 7:30, with the New Orleans Saints taking on the New York Giants at Giants Stadium. The game was originally scheduled for the Louisiana Superdome, but it was shifted to East Rutherford, N.J., in the aftermath of the hurricane. A taped interview with former Presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton precedes the game.

The regularly scheduled Washington Redskins-Dallas Cowboys Monday Night Football game kicks off at 9 p.m. on ABC, with the Saints-Giants telecast moving to ESPN, except in New York and Louisiana, where the Saints-Giants contest will remain on ABC and the Redskins-Cowboys game will be available on ESPN.

The telethon will continue on both networks until the conclusion of the Redskins-Cowboys game.

“This telethon, the NFL, our people, our media assets across [The Walt] Disney [Co.] are all coming together to rebuild for those who have lost so much,” ESPN and ABC Sports president and co-chair of Disney Media Networks George Bodenheimer said in a prepared statement. “It’s great football and, more important, it’s helping people.”

NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue added, “We appreciate the leadership of ABC and ESPN in helping us to turn this particular Monday night into far more than a primetime football doubleheader, making it part of the overall GulfCoast relief effort.”