NFL officials are demanding this city's activities surrounding Super Bowl XXV include minorities, taking issue with a street festival sponsored by an exclusive all-male, all-white group.
"If a city is going to be part of the Super Bowl, the NFL is going to have something to say about it," said Don Weiss, the league's director of planning.
Tampa's annual Gasparilla, a raucous reenactment of a pirate invasion, was a key selling point when the city won the right to play host to the 25th Super Bowl and was even rescheduled for the day before the big game.
But the NFL wants concessions from the organizers, Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla, to keep the game from being marred by a controversy such as the one surrounding the PGA Championship at Shoal Creek Country Club in Birmingham, Ala.
"We want to talk to them further about what can be done to make it more encompassing," Weiss said. "But I am not at liberty to discuss specifics."
Asked whether he would rule out canceling the NFL's participation in the parade, he said: "No, I would not rule that out."
NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, in Berlin for an NFL exhibition game, said he would investigate the matter.
"When we get back home to New York, we will look into this information and take appropriate steps to make sure the National Football League, its owners and its players are comfortable about participating in Super Bowl XXV," Tagliabue said in a statement released Friday night.
David Cornwell, assistant counsel and director of equal employment for the NFL, called the Krewe's sponsorship "a disappointment."
Mayor Sandy Freedman has also lobbied the Krewe to expand its membership and the parade.
"Yes, I would like blacks and women and Hispanics to be admitted," Freedman said. "I keep pushing and prodding."
But she said the parade is just one event and won't tarnish the city's image.
Members of Tampa's Super Bowl task force, many of whom are members of the Krewe, reacted angrily when contacted for comment.
"Are you trying to stir things up?" task force Chairman Walter Baldwin asked. "Why don't you put on your own parade?"
The parade features floats from many groups, but is launched by the all-male Krewe, which has "invaded" Tampa every year since the club was founded in 1904. The Krewe includes the city's top business leaders.
Many in the black community have called the Gasparilla tradition offensive.
"Gasparilla has been a dark shadow that's been cast on the black community for years," said Jesse Hill, a task force member.
NFL officials said they never realized minorities were kept out of the Krewe until last February, when they attended the Gasparilla parade.
Weiss said he has met with city leaders several times since then and will continue the meetings. He would not say exactly what kind of concessions the NFL would request in the meetings.