The Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony was Saturday night, and Terrell Owens wasn’t there, choosing to hold an induction ceremony of his very own in Chattanooga, Tenn. It was, he said, an act of protest: In Owens’s eyes, the Hall of Fame’s voters kept him out of Canton for three years after his initial eligibility because of his character, which goes against the Hall’s rules that state only on-field accomplishments must be considered. So he inducted himself during a speech at his college gymnasium.
"I'm not going to do a dog-and-pony show and smile in people's faces and be fake," Owens told reporters afterward. "I had to harbor all these feelings all these years. And this is the way I needed to do it. Chattanooga gave me an opportunity to do it my way."
But according to Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio, the Hall of Fame is considering a rule change that would make Owens's protest a one-time-only affair, at least in theory: Florio cited sources who suggested the Hall may force future candidates for enshrinement to commit to show up for the induction ceremony before the final vote is taken.
"The plan, as another source put it, would consist of having the 25 semifinalists sign an agreement that they would show up if selected," Florio wrote. "It's currently believed that he adjustment to the procedures is virtually certain to happen."
Florio’s sources told him that Owens’s protest was not well received by other Hall of Famers who were in attendance for the festivities this past weekend, with “most if not all” agreeing that they had to stop it before it became a trend. Left undecided, however, is what will happen if the new rule is enacted and a candidate either declines to sign the agreement or declines to show up after he’s voted in.
Peter King of NBC Sports, one of the Hall's 48 voters, seemed to back up Florio's sources in his Monday morning column, gently taking Owens to task for his boycott.
"It's brave to get elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and not show up? It's not brave. It's a choice," he wrote. "I might think it's ridiculous that he skipped the induction in Canton, but it's his choice; Owens shouldn't be forever beaten up over this. But absolutely he shouldn't be celebrated or feted for doing something gutsy either. Listening to his speech in Chattanooga, I could hear the anger against the 48-member board of selectors, of which I am one, and of which 46 are members of the news media. I do not understand how boycotting the ceremony - because of his anger against 46 people who are not his family, who are not peers, who are not his teammates, who not his new teammates in the Hall of Fame - does anything for Owens other than making him appear forever small and vindictive, and vindictive against people who mean so little in his world."
(Although King also wrote that "absolutely, unequivocally" candidates should not have to commit to showing up in Canton to be selected for the Hall.)
Owens, in any case, has a point: A player who ranks second in NFL history in receiving yards, third in receiving touchdowns and eighth in receptions should be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Randy Moss ranks below Owens in two of those categories - and finished his career with just three more touchdown catches - and he got in on the first ballot. Save for Jerry Rice, Owens' numbers are better than the other modern-era wideouts who got in on their first attempt (the full list: Rice, Moss, Lance Alworth, Raymond Berry, Steve Largent and Paul Warfield). It’s fairly inconceivable that Owens did not join that list.