The Pro Football Hall of Fame’s clumsy policy regarding the posthumous presentation of gold rings and jackets is about to get even clumsier.
As explained by Mike Klis of 9News.com, the recent passing of 2019 enshrinee Pat Bowlen will force the Hall of Fame either to apply its policy as written, or to create an exception.
Pro Football Hall of Fame spokesman Pete Fierle acknowledged that the museum faces an unprecedented dilemma.
“This is the first time that a Hall of Famer has passed away between election and enshrinement,” Fierle told Klis. “The policy for posthumous enshrinees is being reviewed to clarify the intent and purpose of decisions made in the past.”
The Hall of Fame has gotten it very wrong in the past, stubbornly refusing to give rings and jackets to the families of Hall of Famers like Junior Seau and Ken Stabler. And the reason given for denying the ring and jacket to Seau, Stabler, and other posthumously enshrined Hall of Famers applies equally to Bowlen, since he passed before he was given the ring and the jacket.
“While the iconic bronzed busts are created to memorialize every member of the Hall of Fame, the Hall of Fame Ring and Gold Jacket are items presented to living Hall of Fame members to be worn exclusively by them as evidence and pride of their having been elected to sport’s most elite fraternity,” the Hall of Fame said in a 2016 statement, when the issue of deceased Hall of Famers being denied a ring and a jacket first arose. “At no time in its 53-year history has the Hall of Fame presented either of these personal adornments posthumously or retroactively to a family member of a deceased Hall of Famer.”
To the extent that the Hall of Fame is considering making an exception for Bowlen because he passed between his election and induction, that exception would in the face of the reasoning articulated in 2016. So here’s the best solution: Give the ring and the jacket to the family of Pat Bowlen. And to the family of Junior Seau. And to the family of Ken Stabler. And to the family of every other Hall of Famer who dies before election or induction.
The Hall of Fame badly blew it in 2016. Pat Bowlen’s passing gives the Hall of Fame an opportunity to get it right. Here’s hoping that the Hall of Fame, under the guidance of the NFL, will do the right thing, as to Bowlen, Seau, Stabler, and all others who secure the game’s highest honor without witnessing it.