Junior Seau will be inducted posthumously into the Pro Football Hall of Fame next month, but his family will not be allowed to give a speech during the ceremony.
On the surface, the Hall of Fame’s decision seems controversial and could be seen as a way of silencing the family of a player who suffered from CTE. As it turns out, however, this policy is not unique to Seau. In fact, it was created in 2009 – the same year that Seau retired.
“The policy was made in 2009, it was implemented in 2010, and it was actually used in 2011,” Pro Football Hall of Fame president Dave Baker explained on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “And the policy was, frankly, you had (a) program that tends to (be) long. During those days, presenters would actually speak from the podium to present the Hall of Famer being inducted, and some of those speeches began to run towards 30 minutes and make what is a long program even longer. So in 2010, the move was made to make the presenter a video presenter.”
Seau’s daughter, Sydney, will speak via video on her father’s behalf.
“Sydney will be speaking – just like the other seven presenters will be speaking for the other seven enshrinees inducted into the Hall of Fame,” Baker said. “She’ll be speaking by video. Now in Junior’s case, it’ll actually be a longer video than some of the others because the Hall of Famer (won’t) be there to give his speech.”
This policy was used in 2011 for Les Richter, who died in 2010 at the age of 79.
“Again, Sydney will be speaking,” Baker reiterated. “There’s nothing being done to suppress her voice in this. As a matter of fact, we’re trying to give her a platform. But all the presenters speak by video and only the Hall of Famers speak from the podium. The goal here is to make that Hall of Famer even more special. I can tell you that we’ve been in contact with Sydney, with the executor of the state, with Sydney’s mother. They all understand that. They support this policy. That’s what they tell us. What we want to do is celebrate the life of Junior Seau – and not just with Junior Seau, but they’re the first ones to say they also want to celebrate the lives of the other seven guys. And I think Sydney is excited to do this. She’s looking forward to doing this, and it’s going to be a great weekend – despite some of the press that’s out there.”
Indeed, some columnists see the Hall’s decision as simply protecting the NFL shield, especially considering the recent lawsuits that have been filed against the league regarding head trauma and CTE.
Baker was asked how much those lawsuits influenced the Hall’s decision to enforce its policy for Seau’s family.
“Absolutely none,” Baker said. “This was the previous policy before Junior Seau came up. And again, we’re not trying to suppress anybody. There’s going to be multiple opportunities for Sydney to be interviewed or talk to media. It’s just only Hall of Famers speak from that podium. We’re going to do our very best to celebrate the life of Junior Seau and the career of Junior Seau, and that’s what will be done. That’s the job of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. . . . I do believe that this was the right thing (to do). We want to be very sensitive to Sydney. We want to be very sensitive to the family. And I think we’re doing that, by the way. But she’s going to have the opportunity to say whatever she wants in her presentation.
“Last year’s ceremony was a great ceremony and they’re wonderful stories of emotion,” Baker continued, “but it lasted almost five hours long. And in some respects, we’ve got to be fair to all the guys that are in it so they all have an opportunity. What we’re doing is giving a platform to Sydney (and) not suppressing anything she wants to say. The only thing I can tell you is we’re informed by them that they understand this policy and they’re excited to be involved.”
Seau will be inducted along with Jerome Bettis, Tim Brown, Charles Haley, Bill Polian, Will Shields, Mick Tingelhoff and Ron Wolf. The ceremony will be held in Canton the weekend of Aug. 7.