July 29 2015 11:22 AM

Hall of Fame still won't let Junior's daughter speak

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Photo courtesy of RoyaltSD/Flickr

It's maddening that San Diego's two all-time biggest sports personalities received different forms of posthumous silent treatment. After the death of Tony Gwynn, he was conspicuously not mentioned or memorialized during the 2014 Major League Baseball All-Star Game. And it was revealed last week that Junior Seau's daughter will not speak on her dad's behalf at the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony on August 8.

The 21-year-old Sydney Seau previously believed she would get time on the podium at the ceremony. She told the New York 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 reference to "this mess" ties into a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family against the NFL. After Seau committed suicide in 2012, it was discovered the former Chargers linebacker had chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Twenty years of head-jarring tackles playing pro football had seemingly messed with his brain.

After some backlash, The Hall of Fame pointed out that in 2010 it stopped allowing speeches about deceased players at the induction ceremony. Instead, longer memorial videos are shown. Sydney Seau agreed to be in Junior's video, reportedly before she knew she would not be speaking onstage.

Is the Hall of Fame choosing to turn a deaf ear to the realities of what an extended NFL career can mean to the physical well being of players? Yes, says former San Diego Union-Tribune sports columnist Tim Sullivan.

"If the Pro Football Hall of Fame is a museum and not just a marketing device, it has an obligation to present the whole of the sport's history and not just the prettier parts," says Sullivan, who is now a columnist for The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky. "To ignore the impact that concussions have had on the game—the human costs, the financial liability and ultimately the rule changes that have resulted—is to gloss over an important chapter and to abdicate responsibility for imparting valuable lessons to future players and their parents."

Sullivan adds: "To deny the Seau family a voice at this year's inductions may be consistent with recent practices, but it is out of touch with public interest, public sentiment and the implicit obligation of a museum to preserve and present history as accurately and completely as possible. It looks like censorship at a time when pro football should be pursuing greater transparency. It's a mistake easily corrected by letting Sydney speak."

Is it too late for Seau fans—all over the country— who want to hear from Sydney?

The ceremony is broadcast worldwide by ESPN. "We will again televise the enshrinement ceremony but ESPN does not influence how the Hall of Fame conducts its event," says Bill Hofheimer, senior director of communications for the sports network.

A Hall of Fame spokesperson says the Seau family has acquiesced to the notion of keeping mum at the ceremony. True, but that doesn't mean they are happy about it.

"Contrary to the most recent statement by the Hall of Fame, the family does not support the current policy that prevents family members from delivering live remarks on behalf of deceased inductees," says Steve Strauss, the family's legal counsel, in a statement released July 27. "However, the Seau family does not want this issue to become a distraction to Junior's accomplishments and legacy or those of the other inductees."

Says Hall of Fame vice president of communications Pete Fierle: "Quite frankly, this policy took years of evaluation, and we're not going to evaluate it on a case-by-case basis." He adds that the reasoning behind only having living recipients speak is to "achieve the highest production level possible."

Would granting Sydney Seau two minutes to say a few words about her beloved father resonate to a global audience, be of great interest or increase production value?

Sigh. Of course it would.

Write to rond@sdcitybeat.com


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