Chargers Editorial: Hall of Fame Allows Sydney Seau to Speak, But It Is Not Enough

FILE--In this Nov. 27, 2011, file photo, former San Diego Charger Junior Seau stands with his daughter, Sydney, at his induction into the San Diego Chargers Hall of Fame, during halftime of an NFL football game in San Diego. Sydney Seau will not be commenting on her father entering the Pro Football Hall of Fame during the Aug. 8 inductions. Citing previous policies on posthumous inductions, the Hall has barred Sydney Seau from making a speech. Seau, who committed suicide in 2012, is one of seven men being inducted this year. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy, File)

Mandatory Credit: UT San Diego
Mandatory Credit: UT San Diego

The Pro Football Hall of Fame will allow Sydney Seau to speak at her father’s induction ceremony next weekend.

Sydney, the daughter of the late San Diego Chargers linebacker Junior Seau, will be interviewed live on stage at the unveiling of her father’s bronze bust. She will not be delivering a speech.

The Hall and its president David Baker received widespread criticism when a New York Times article last month revealed that Sydney would not be allowed to speak at the annual induction ceremony. Since January, the Hall had given the Sydney the impression that she would be allowed to present a short speech on behalf of her father.

Junior Seau, who died tragically in 2012 when he committed suicide at his Oceanside home, always wanted his daughter to speak at his induction.

Seau’s death placed a huge defect on the already-blemished reputation of the NFL, as it was later revealed that Seau’s brain showed signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease linked to a history of head trauma and concussions. The Seau family consequently filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the NFL.

The Hall of Fame had previously cited a rule effected in 2010 regarding the induction of deceased players. The rule removed speeches by family members and replaced them with a video montage that included career highlights and an interview with family members. Joe Horrigan, a spokesperson for the Hall of Fame, attempted to justify the rule by claiming that the speeches became “redundant.”

In spite of the policy – which is flaky, at best – fans and the national media developed the perception that the Hall and the NFL were trying to censor the Seau family due to Junior’s death. Their barring of Sydney’s speech coincided with the NFL’s long history of protecting its image and shutting out criticism. The Hall seemed to want to put up a facade over the death of Junior Seau. The boot fits, and the NFL is wearing it.

Mandatory Credit: AP Photo
Mandatory Credit: AP Photo

Baker confirmed these thoughts in an attempt to defend the Hall’s policy.  “Our mission is to honor the heroes of the game, and Junior is a hero of the game,” Baker later said in a statement. “We’re going to celebrate his life, not the death and other issues.”

Baker reflects the Hall’s assumption that Sydney, if given the opportunity to deliver a speech, would discuss the circumstances regarding her father’s death. These assumptions, however, are severely misguided.

“I just want to give the speech he would have given.” Sydney told the Times. “It wasn’t going to be about this mess. My speech was solely about him.”

The Hall of Fame today released another statement in which they clarify their reasons for allowing Sydney to participate in a live interview on stage. “Our goal is to maintain our policy regarding enshrinement speeches, but also show compassion and understanding,” Baker said.

The Hall did a good thing, but it is not enough. Their decision gives further steam to the idea that they are afraid of what Sydney would say if they gave her five minutes to say anything she wished. They are in an irrational fear of how she will honor her father.

Junior Seau often stated that he wanted to be more than the ordinary linebacker. In the end, he was much more. He was a legend and an icon who ultimately gave his life to the sport. The NFL and the Pro Football Hall of Fame need to treat him and his family with the utmost respect. They deserve nothing less.

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Philip J. Tacason
San Diego native and former London, UK resident, now living in San Francisco.

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