As we enter the 28th week of deflategate, the NFL once again can’t seem to get out of the way of itself. This time, committing a reprehensible act against all-time great.
Junior Seau, one of the greatest linebackers to every play in the NFL, was supposed to be immortalized this summer with an induction into the Hall of Fame, instead, he’ll be scandalized.
The New York Times learned on Friday Seau’s family will not be allowed speak on the player’s behalf. Instead, it will only show a video commemorating his career.
In the past, deceased inductees still had a presenter speak to represent the player. Hall of Fame spokesman Joe Horrigan, however said they often repeated what was in the video, prolonging an already lengthy ceremony.
“There was an acceptance speech for deceased players, but it got redundant,” Horrigan said. “The honor is supposed to be for the individual.”
Seau’s video tribute will be five minutes, two minutes longer than for living inductees, Horrigan said. It will include parts of an interview his daughter gave to NFL Network. Of course, at the time of the interview, Seau’s daughter, Sydney did not know she would not be allowed to present for her father.
When Seau was still alive, he made it clear Sydney was to be his presenter had he ever made it to the Hall of Fame.
“It’s frustrating because the induction is for my father and for the other players, but then to not be able to speak, it’s painful,” Sydney said. “I just want to give the speech he would have given. It wasn’t going to be about this mess. My speech was solely about him.”
The mess she is referring to is the reason Seau will not be around to accept this honor. The former Miami Dolphin, San Diego Charger and New England Patriot died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest in his beachfront home in Oceanside at the age of 43. The family agreed to have his brain studied and received the diagnosis of traumatic brain injury that doctors said they believed was brought on by hits to his head. The mess Sydney is referring to also includes a lawsuit filed by Seau’s family against the NFL.
Growing up in Hawaii, we didn’t have many sports heroes to look up to who looked like us, dressed like us, and spoke like us. Junior was one of us. Too many times we watched Polynesians cast as the dimwitted muscle in an action film. Too many times we’ve watched closer-to-home “Polys” let us down. Junior never let us down. When he visited the islands for the Pro Bowl, he was treated like a god. Kids ran him down at every turn, not for an autograph, but to simply touch the honorary local boy who had made it. He always took time to speak with the kids, flash his smile and he was off to ultimately being chased down by another swarm of starstruck children. I was one of those kids.
Beyond the white sandy beaches and high rises that create the iconic imagery of Honolulu lies a deep and dark secret. The average household income is less than $75,000. The average single-family home in Honolulu is $430,000. The Hawaii economy ranks 39th in GDP. Forbes listed Honolulu as the Most Overpriced City in America last year. Each one of us grew up knowing someone on food stamps. Each one of us had a friend who grew up in public housing.
We didn’t want to look up to Junior, we needed Junior.
During one of his many trips to the islands, I had the opportunity to meet him, talk to him, and ultimately get his autograph. It sits among my prized possessions that I will some day pass down to my son.
When he ended his life, I know people very close to me who cried for him. When he was enshrined those same people cried for him again.
What the NFL is doing is wrong plain and simple. They are misusing the honor and power that comes with the Hall of Fame to further hurt a family that has been through more than any one of us would ever want to imagine.
Instead the NFL wants to silence what it deems as a threat. Because as commissioner Roger Goodell has said over and over again, the shield comes before everything else. We’ve seen it with Ray Rice, we’ve seen it with Tom Brady, we’ve seen it with domestic violence, and now we’re seeing it with Junior Seau.
If the other inductees, Jerome Bettis, Charles Haley, Tim Brown, Will Shields, Mick Tingelhoff, Ron Wolf and Bill Polian had any sense of sympathy and integrity they would boycott. They’d let their video run and take pictures and not say a single word. Stand with your brother who gave it all for football, and in the end, the game took his life.
If Horrigan’s reasoning was truthful, and the Hall of Fame speech is really about honoring the individual. Then honor Junior Seau by granting him his wish. Let Sydney speak. Shouldn’t the NFL feel they’ve taken away enough from her already?
Photo Credit: AP
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