The Pro Football Hall Of Fame is pushing back against criticism about its handling of famed linebacker Junior Seau's induction ceremony next month. In a New York Times story published Friday, Seau's daughter, Sydney, expressed frustration she would not be allowed to speak before her deceased father's Aug. 8 induction in Canton, Ohio. Now, the Hall of Fame is firing back, insisting it isn't trying to slight Seau's family and is only following a recent policy change that applies to all posthumous inductees.
Living inductees speak at the ceremony. But for deceased individuals, the presentation includes only an official video produced by the National Football League's television network -- a change in policy that dates from a few years ago. The Times story noted as much, but added the absence of in-person testimonials for Seau raises "thorny questions" since the induction of the former Chargers, Dolphins and Patriots star is widely acknowledged as uncomfortable for the NFL. The former All-Pro -- who committed suicide at the age of 43 in 2012 -- was later found to be suffering from brain disease linked to injuries suffered as a player, and Seau's family is involved in litigation against the league.
“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 Seau told the Times. “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.”
Hall Of Fame President David Baker tried to put an end to any brewing controversy Saturday.
"The stories erroneously imply that a change in our policy regarding individuals enshrined posthumously was made solely for the case of Junior Seau when, in fact, it has been the Hall of Fame’s policy since 2010," Baker said in a statement. "The Hall has been in positive communication with Sydney, her mother, and the executor of Junior’s estate who each have communicated to us that they understand and fully support the Hall’s policy."
The Hall Of Fame is an independent entity, but receives funding from the NFL and the organization's annual induction ceremony is broadcast on the NFL Network. This year's seven other inductees -- all living -- include Jerome Bettis, Tim Brown, Charles Haley, Bill Polian, Will Shields, Mick Tingelhoff, and Ron Wol.
The NFL recently reached a settlement with thousands of former players who accused the league of hiding the long-term health risks of concussions. It could cost the league $1 billion in the next 65 years.