Pro Football HOF Needs To Change A Bad Policy

Earlier today, I shared the news that the family of Junior Seau will not get to speak at the Pro Football Hall of Fame cermonies that take place in about two weeks.

I did mention that this would not be the first time a player inducted posthumously will not have anyone speak on his behalf, as this applied to Los Angeles Rams guard Les Richter in 2011.

However, as Mike Florio notes, this policy about players who are inducted posthumously not having anyone give a speech on their behalf was first implemented in 2010, so it hasn’t been around for long. The policy came about after Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Derrick Thomas was inducted posthumously, and both former Chiefs general manager Carl Peterson and Derrick’s son Derrion Thomas spoke on Derrick’s behalf.

The Hall of Fame’s stance was the policy is in place to avoid redundancy between speeches. The intent appeared to be cutting down on the length of the ceremony, which has sometimes lasted too long because people go too long with speeches. Now those who present the HOFers give a prerecorded speech with a highlights package, and then the HOFer is allowed to give a speech.

Yet as Florio notes, the new policy has not helped expedite the ceremony. Take note that 2011 is the only year before this year that a member was inducted posthumously, so it resulted in a grand total of one speech that didn’t have to be presented. Additionally, Florio notes that the policy wasn’t communicated well. Between that and the fact most modern NFL fans and many sports reporters today aren’t familiar with Les Richter, nobody thought to ask why nobody gave a speech on Richter’s behalf.

Then along comes Seau’s induction and everybody wants to know why. And that’s because Seau is a player who every modern NFL fan and every sports reporter today knows about, and not just because of his tragic death. So it should be no surprise that the Hall of Fame policy has become such an issue only since today. Furthermore, it’s no surprise people get the impression that the policy is in place simply to keep Seau’s family from talking about an issue the NFL is uncomfortable with facing.

I understand the point of keeping the ceremony from running too long, but the decision to not allow posthumous inductees to have someone say a few words on their behalf, even if they get a longer highlight package, is silly. Who’s to say that every person who inducts a player posthumously is just going to repeat what is said in a highlights package? If anything, those people can give better insight because they can talk about what the player was like off the field, and what they meant as a family member.

Besides, as Florio notes, many inductees who are able to speak on their behalf tend to be long winded and rambling. Get too many of those players, especially in years in which all inductees are alive and able to speak, and your Hall of Fame ceremony still runs too long.

What the Pro Football Hall of Fame needs to do, and the NFL needs to strongly back, is to allow those inducted posthumously, or those who are unable to speak for health or other reasons, to have someone speak on their behalf, but regardless of who does the speaking, to limit speeches to no longer than 15 minutes. If anybody goes too long, regardless of who it is, then have someone tell them “time” to let them know they need to wrap it up.

Furthermore, the Hall of Fame should change its policy effective immediately and allow somebody from Seau’s family to speak for him. Sydney Seau has already said she doesn’t want to talk about her father’s health issues and untimely death; she just wants to give the speech he would have wanted to give. The Hall of Fame can also issue an apology to Les Richter’s family for not allowing somebody the chance to speak on his behalf.

The Hall of Fame’s bad policy has only been in place since 2010, meaning that if it’s rescinded quickly, and replaced with one that really accomplishes what the Hall of Fame says it wants, we won’t continue to have this problem when anyone else is inducted posthumously.

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Bob Morris

I'm a sports writer in real life, though I've always focused on smaller communities, but that hasn't stopped me from learning more about some of the ins and outs of the NFL. You can follow me on Twitter @BobMorrisSports if you can put up with updates on the high school sports teams I cover.