It wasn’t supposed to get out so quickly, but it did. And now at least one Hall of Famer is trying to shout it down as (you guessed it) #fakenews.
That’s what Cris Carter said regarding the PFT report that the Hall of Fame is considering what would surely be known as the T.O. rule — a requirement that candidates for enshrinement commit in advance to attending the enshrinement ceremony. But, as so often happens when that term is often used in other arenas, the news isn’t fake, just inconvenient.
PFT has re-confirmed via a third source what was reported earlier in the day. The subject of an advance commitment to attend the enshrinement ceremony came up on Friday during both the annual Ray Nitschke luncheon (attended exclusively by members of the Hall of Fame) and the meeting of the Hall of Fame’s board of trustees. The Hall of Fame staff has been asked to develop a rule, and the Hall of Fame’s lawyers currently are in the early stages of crafting language.
As one source explained it, the board of trustees is not pleased at all about the failure of Owens to show up. The board hopes to make it very difficult for someone to do it again, that a plan is moving forward in this regard, and that it was agreed no one would say anything about it for now. (Oops.)
There’s surely a financial motivation at work here. The weekend brings thousands of people — and hundreds of thousands of dollars — to Canton. Friday night’s Gold Jacket dinner, for example, featured tickets that cost $145 each, and at least 4,000 people attended the event at the Canton Civic Center.
This doesn’t mean that a potential T.O. rule will be finalized, especially if there’s enough opposition to it before it becomes official. So far, the reaction has been largely negative, possibly negative enough to persuade someone with the power to pull the plug to do so.
And the plug should be pulled. The gold jacket and bronze bust become earned via a career in football, not through a pledge to show up at a series of parties and events associated with officially joining the ranks of the supposed immortals. Player, coaches, and contributors either belong in the Hall of Fame or they don’t, regardless of whether they respond properly to the “be there or be square” mandate.
Really, what’s next? A threat to rescind Hall of Fame status if, for example, someone who really didn’t want to show up agrees to show up and then aggressively criticizes during the speech the selection process or other flaws regarding the Hall of Fame? Could the commitment to attend morph into an oath to say nothing negative about the Hall of Fame or, for that matter, any fellow members of the Hall of Fame, for life?
Enacting this rule would be a huge mistake, and this is where the someone on the inside needs to stand up and say, “Look, folks. This was a one-time thing from a unique personality. It’s not going to become a trend. And if it does, isn’t that the right of the person who earned enshrinement? Maybe instead of creating a barrier to entry we should take the criticism to heart and re-examine the selection process.”
If only someone with that kind of vision, power, and influence over the sport of football were on the board of trustees. Oh, wait, someone is.