NFL legend Junior Seau told his daughter Sydney that he wanted her to introduce him if he was ever enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Seau will finally be inducted into the Hall of Fame next month, but his wish will not be honored. The New York Times reported Friday that Seau's family will not be allowed to speak at the enshrinement ceremony on Aug. 8, in Canton, Ohio.
Besides the famous bronze busts presented as part of the enshrinement ceremony, all the audience will see is a five-minute video celebrating his playing career. The video, produced by NFL Films, will feature his family members, but it glosses over his suicide in 2012 or the degenerative neurological disease from which he suffered.
David Baker, the executive director of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, which is in charge of the ceremony, told the Times that the event was meant to celebrate "his life, not his death and other issues."
Planners for the event also cited the recent practice of limiting the enshrinement of deceased players to just a video because the speeches were "redundant," according to a spokesman. It also has to do with timing, keeping the ceremony from running long.
Seau's family was shocked by the decision, which they only learned about earlier this month. Sydney told the Times:
"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. 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 Pro Football Hall of Fame is an independent nonprofit organization, though it receives the bulk of its funding from the NFL. Hall of Fame officials handle the planning and coordination for the enshrinement.
In a letter to fans, Baker defended the policy and said, "This is not a precedent setting circumstance. It is existing policy, which is six years old and was first implemented in 2011 when Los Angeles Rams great Les Richter was enshrined posthumously."
Seau's family was involved in the class-action lawsuit brought by thousands of former NFL players and their families over the impact of concussions and head trauma on players and the league's role in withholding information related to the long-term impact. They opted out of a settlement deal and are still fighting the league in court over damages owed to Seau's heirs.
Maybe the decision to box out Seau's family really does stem from precedent and a concern over the run time of the event. It still comes across as another crass denial in the NFL's attempt to stay on message and never acknowledge the full extent of the health crisis among its former players.