Terrell Owens will not be at the induction ceremony for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and there won’t be much mention of him, either.
The Hall of Fame’s executive director, Joe Horrigan, made that clear Wednesday, when he told the Talk of Fame Network that Owens won’t be recognized during the Gold Jacket dinner on Aug. 3 or the nationally televised ceremony on Aug. 4.
News of Horrigan’s comments caused many to call the move retribution for Owens’ public decision to skip the induction ceremony, a first for a still-living inductee. But as a member of the voting committee (and someone who spoke in favor of Owens at this year’s meeting), I believe the Hall’s recent decision is a win-win for both sides.
Let me be clear: People should be OK with Owens’ decision to skip the weekend, even though he’s making a mistake by not coming. For Owens, someone who sought and commanded attention for his entire career, it’s not a jump to deduce that the spotlight and appreciation that would be placed on his achievements — all while being compared to the titans of the game’s past — would’ve been be an experience he treasured. If he thinks he’d get the equivalent of that elsewhere, it’s his right to do what he pleases.
The Hall’s most recent action ensures that this will be the frostiest Hall of Fame induction of all time for a football player, one that will — in an ironic twist — bring more hype and more ears to Owens’ speech, which he will give at his alma mater, the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, about two hours before the actual induction ceremony in Canton, Ohio. That’s good for Owens, a rebel who has already voiced his displeasure with being passed over twice by the committee. He will revel in the attention heaped upon him thanks to his unprecedented move.
Here’s what matters from the Hall’s perspective: By omitting mention of Owens, there’s clearly a belief it will keep the vibes positive that weekend for the other Hall of Famers, some of whom — including Rod Woodson and Kenny Easley — have already admitted publicly that Owens’ decision to skip the weekend has rubbed them the wrong way.
It’s not a stretch to think it’s a feeling shared by other honorees, and by choosing to ignore the situation, it allows Horrigan to publicly state his intention to keep the focus on the current and former inductees who will be in attendance.
That’s something that matters to his constituency, since any Hall of Famer who has been through the weekend will say the best part of it is the ceremony and pomp of it all, making it a career-validating weekend for everyone who is honored to go through it.
The ongoing ceremony drama hasn’t been ideal for the seven other inductees, as writers and analysts have already spilled more words about Owens’ situation than they otherwise would, taking some of the focus away from the other inductees’ worthy careers during the build-up to the event. How many times have you read about Robert Brazile this month? Or Bobby Beathard? Or even Ray Lewis?
The Hall’s decision is an easy way to publicly throw support behind those three, along with Randy Moss, Brian Urlacher, Brian Dawkins and Jerry Kramer. It allows the Hall to express to those players its desire to help them get their proper shine that weekend, especially since Owens is, again, having his own event a few hours before their own ceremony.
The choice to omit Owens could prevent others from bitterly skipping the ceremony in future years, which isn’t a bad thing for the Hall. Think about it: If Owens chose to rip the Hall of Fame and its selectors in his self-planned speech and received lots of attention for it — while still getting additional recognition from the Hall that weekend via, say, a tribute video — many would be talking about Owens afterward, not the fellow inductees. What would keep others from following the same path? By reducing the mentions of Owens, the message is clear — if you want to be recognized, come to the ceremony.
Besides, if skipping the weekend becomes commonplace, it could potentially devalue the reverence and ceremony of the Hall, which — if you believe Hall of Famers — is the very thing that makes it great in the first place.
Yet, the prevailing belief here is that for the short-term, at least, all the consternation about Terrell Owens’ choice and the way this situation is being handled is inconsequential. When it comes to T.O. and the Hall of Fame, the important thing to remember is that one of the best receivers of a generation finally got into the Hall of Fame, and with a class packed with stars that helped draw an entire generation of millennials to the game.
T.O.’s persona was distasteful to many during his playing days (and obviously still is), but there’s no doubt about his on-field contributions (he’s top five all time in several categories) or the impact he had on a young generation of football fans. For all that, the man deserves to be enshrined among the football greats, and I’m glad he will be … even if you see or hear little mention of him when the time comes for the actual ceremonies in Canton.
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