Were there legitimate football reasons to keep Terrell Owens out of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, or did voters who disliked Owens personally vote against him for off-field reasons? That’s perhaps the most important question after Owens was voted down by the Hall of Fame Selection Committee. And one member of the committee had an interesting comment about the proceedings.
Jim Trotter of ESPN, who is on the Selection Committee, said on Richard Deitsch’s podcast that he was uncomfortable with the opposition to Owens in the meeting room on the day before the Super Bowl. Although Trotter was careful to make clear that he doesn’t know for a fact that the opposition to Owens is personal, he said it felt like it was.
“I voted for him. I will vote for him again,” Trotter said of Owens. “But I’ll say this: In my 11 years on the Committee I will say that that’s the most uncomfortable I’ve ever been in a room, listening to the debate on Terrell Owens. And I went to one of the Hall officials during a break and I told him that. I said, ‘I’ve never felt this uncomfortable about a guy being debated in this room.’ Because it did. It felt personal to me. It may not have been — I’m not saying it was personal — I’m saying it felt personal to me, and that was very disturbing to me. Will he get in? I believe he will get in at some point. But that’s what’s so ridiculous to me, to be frank, Richard, because don’t tell me that you’re going to make him wait two, three years, five years, whatever it is, simply because you felt he was a bad teammate, but he’ll get in, you’ll vote for him at some point. If you’re not willing to vote for him now you shouldn’t be willing to vote for him in five years. He should be judged simply on his merits, in my opinion, and I’m not one of those people who believe in sending messages.”
We’ve heard Hall of Fame voters say Owens was too divisive to get into the Hall of Fame, and we’ve heard voters say Owens dropped too many passes. But neither of those arguments is particularly convincing. It’s hard not to think some of the opposition to Owens is personal.