Artist Dirk Rozich puts some finishing touches on his new mural, The Founders, in downtown Canton.

Canton, birthplace of the NFL, ready to celebrate the league’s centennial, even if coronavirus puts a damper on the party

Story by Susan Glaser (

CANTON, Ohio — One hundred years ago this week, representatives from 11 football teams gathered at an automobile dealership in Canton to talk about forming a league. The National Football League was born.

There was no photo of the meeting, but North Canton artist Dirk Rozich recreated the scene in a stunning mural that hangs on one side of Canton City Hall. It’s one of more than a dozen pieces of football-themed art that would have greeted visitors to the city this week for a multi-day Centennial Celebration of the sport.

One official described the event as a kind of coming-out party for Canton, an opportunity to change the perception of the city, similar to the way the Republican National Convention gave Cleveland a boost in 2016.

But the celebration has been canceled, another casualty of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We spent the past three years working on all of this,” said Allyson Bussey, president of Visit Canton, the region’s tourism bureau. “It’s really quite sad.”

Still, city and community leaders are looking forward and trying to stay positive, pointing to several permanent investments that they hope will position Canton for the next 100 years.

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