The Pro Football Hall of Fame simply will not be out-snubbed.
Terrell Owens announced last month that, rather than attend his own August induction ceremonies in Canton, Ohio, he will instead give a speech at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, where he played college football. In turn, Hall of Fame officials have decided to more or less pretend that the former wide receiver is not, in fact, a member of their Class of 2018.
“There’s no reason to bring him up as an individual,” Joe Horrigan, the Hall’s executive director, told Clark Judge of the Talk of Fame Network, in comments published Thursday. “He’s not here.”
To that end, Owens will not be announced individually on the evening when the familiar gold jackets are handed out to his other classmates, who include contributor Bobby Beathard, linebacker Robert Brazile, safety Brian Dawkins, guard Jerry Kramer, linebacker Ray Lewis, wide receiver Randy Moss and linebacker Brian Urlacher. Instead, Owens’s jacket will be mailed to him.
That makes some sense. It would be odd to present a jacket to someone not in attendance, although it wouldn’t be difficult to read his name out to the audience that evening. However, the really Hall of Fame-caliber snub, as it were, comes the next evening, when the Class of 2018 is formally enshrined.
During that ceremony, Owens still won’t have his name announced individually, per Judge, let alone have, say, a video of some of his best plays shown. “The focus,” Horrigan said, “is on the guys who are here.”
The only indications that Owens is being inducted will come when the whole class is announced, as well as in imagery of the eight new members. According to Judge, Horrigan likened the 44-year-old ex-player to “a senior who decides to boycott his school’s graduation. His name isn’t mentioned, and his diploma isn’t awarded.”
In announcing that he would not be attending his induction, Owens did not cite a specific reason, but he did say that after “visiting Canton earlier this year, I came to the realization that I wish to celebrate what will be one of the most memorable days of my life, elsewhere.”
The decision prompted speculation that Owens, who is second all-time in NFL receiving yards and third in receiving touchdowns but was often a divisive presence in the locker room, was upset at not being voted into the Hall during his first two years of eligibility.
The former star for the 49ers, Eagles and Cowboys, who ended his 15-year career with stints in Buffalo and Cincinnati, said this month that he was “proud to be a Moc,” referring to Chattanooga. Owens added that he was “honored to be able to share this experience with my family, friends, teammates and fans at the place that provided me an opportunity beyond high school and where I truly began to find myself as an athlete.”
“Obviously we supported him going to Canton,” Chattanooga Athletic Director Mark Wharton said this month (via the AP). “At the time, there hadn’t been any living Hall of Fame members who did not go to Canton, so our assumption was that he was [going there]. But in multiple conversations with him and his team, he felt most comfortable doing it in a place that molded him into the player and person he is today.”
On Thursday, Owens thanked a Twitter user who said, “I applaud you not showing up” to his induction and who encouraged other fans of the former receiver to “rally at the ceremony for a huge T.O. chant.”
Judge wrote that the Hall wasn’t being “vindictive or punitive” but “sensible” in taking its approach. That’s a debatable assertion, as it’s not hard to discern a fair amount of tit-for-tat in the decision to deny Owens any individual acknowledgment during the weekend’s ceremonies.
At the same time, it’s not as if Owens would need to travel to Canton and bask in his enshrinement to feel validated. He’ll have the ceremony in Chattanooga, and, after all, this is a player who more than once was heard on NFL sidelines yelling, “I love me some me!”
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