It must be the Packers offseason, because talk quickly transformed from games and rosters to talk of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. During the NFL Honors last Saturday, we welcomed former general manager as the latest Packers’ representative to head to Canton. Of course there was the undercurrent of grumbling that Jerry Kramer had been overlooked yet another year.
And then things got weird. Make that really weird, complete with navel-gazing, shark-jumping absurdity.
The question was simple: should former Packers safety Darren Sharper be considered for the Pro Football Hall of Fame?
After all, he is up for eligibility this coming year, and he was a pretty good safety. Maybe not LeRoy Butler good, but not too shabby in his own right.
Mind you, this is the same Darren Sharper that sits in jail, indicted for multiple cases of rape and drug-related offenses tied to the rape cases. In multiple states at that. If convicted, Sharper is looking at the possibility of life in prison. How’s that for a great role model for kids?
You would think that off-field extracurriculars of this magnitude following a career and eligibility for Canton would or should be a factor when considering a player for enshrinement.
But Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, a member of the selection committee, took that discussion to the heights of absurdity. On a scale of 1 to 10, it went plaid. What started off with a simple question on the Monday Morning Quarterback turned into a greater conversation over football accomplishments vs. character and how that factors in to the Hall of Fame. Valid questions considering people take their children to the Hall all of the time and these men are considered role models.
It started off with King mentioning Sharper along with Packers legend Brett Favre, wide receiver Terrell Owens and guard Alan Feneca as leading first-ballot candidates for the 2016 class.
Okay, not my first choice for accolades or recognition at this point, but if you’re looking at just the football, I can kind of see where he’s coming from.
But life is not that black and white. It will never be just about the football.
If he would’ve left it at that, I could accept the logic. Yet when he decided to double down on Darren Sharper is where things went from weird to a little offensive. Oh sure, I get the cursory review and the HELL NO that should be summarily put on his file without much discussion. Yet why make such a stand on defending such an alleged vile sack of protoplasm?
King states in a response to a tweet:
Sharper4: We would be shirking our duties if we did not consider him. What has happened since should not be factored in.
— Peter King (@SI_PeterKing) February 4, 2015
In fact he went one step further and asserted that the bylaws mandate that Sharper be reviewed, and that if the selection committee shirked that responsibility to bring Sharper up for a full review, he would quit the committee:
If I said, “I will not consider Sharper for induction because he has been accused of multiple rapes,” I would resign from the committee. — Peter King (@SI_PeterKing) February 4, 2015
The Bylaws. Apparently are now this black and white line in the sand. Thou shall revieweth thy player on the merits of his athletism why thou shall disregardeth his behavior though it mayest be an abomination in thine eyes.
Or however the bylaw is actually written. They are bylaws. Not the King James Bible. Just thought I’d point out the painfully obvious
Again, King added more salt to the wound, refusing to budge on the possibility of amending a bylaw, stating it would create a selection process different than the 53 years of HOF classes. So it is frowned upon to amend the bylaws:
The bylaws of the Pro Football Hall of Fame forbid the 46 voters from considering players’ off-field lives.
— Peter King (@SI_PeterKing) February 4, 2015
Oh yes, because Ron Wolf will be remembered for his spectacular ability to outrun defenders, right?
And his inclusion in the 2015 Hall of Fame class is a direct result of–wait for it–an amendment to the bylaws last May.
Here’s the deal, if you’re old enough to bother reading this column, you survived high school social studies where we all learned Robert’s Rules of Order. President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, points of order, etc. Well also included in Robert’s Rules are the instructions for drafting bylaws. One uses the acronym NOMOMECPA (no mommy, see pa) which stands for “Name, Object, Members, Officers, Meetings, Executive board, Committees, Parliamentary authority, Amendment.”
Notice it is not NOMOMECPSetInStoneForever? The very format acknowledges that bylaws are expected to be amended as an organization evolves.
Perhaps King doesn’t want to cast a spotlight on other unsavory characters that have already been enshrined. Does the name Orenthal James Simpson ring a bell? Or what about Jim Brown who had the same reputation as Ray Rice long in an era before surveillance cameras, 24 hour news and social media?
Does the current voting body worried about other skeletons that may be found in Canton’s closets? After all, OJ’s bust is still there for all to see. No asterisks are next to his name. Will they approach Aaron Hernandez with the same magnanimous behavior when his time on the eligibility clock starts?
Or is it simply that the writers who cast ballots have become such an insular group that the way things have been are the way things are going to be for perpetuity? If that’s the case, perhaps it is time for regular turnover of that selection committee –especially the 13 at-large delegates–to keep it from becoming an entrenched College of Cardinals focused on the rigid absurdity of the bylaws and not the content and character of candidates.
This year reminded us time and time again that the NFL has an image problem. Domestic violence. Child abuse. A former player’s murder trail has begun, and one of the Packers’ own was arrested today on a drugs and weapon charge. In this day and age it is hard to separate the accomplishments on the field from the low points of behavior on the other six days of the week, not to mention that this callous and flippant disregard for such actions is an insult to victims of violent crimes. You weren’t raped during a game, so it really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame has four declarations in its very simple but powerful mission statement:
Honor the Heroes of the Game
Preserve Its History
Promote Its Values
Celebrate Excellence Everywhere
Contemplating the worthiness of an alleged serial rapist is a slap in the face to the entire process. It hardly honors the heroes that have entered Canton since its inception. It is a greasy smudge on the history that has been sought out and preserved in the museum that is the Hall of Fame. How does ignoring drugging and raping women promote any value in any way here on this planet? It certainly doesn’t promote excellence. In fact, going to the mat for Darren Sharper is the polar opposite of it. It doesn’t celebrate excellence. It lowers the bar for HOF classes to follow.
It would not take an act of God to amend the bylaws. It happened as recently as last year. It is imperative that the bylaws reflect and affirm the mission statement of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The moment the selection committee loses track of those lofty goals, the reputation of the Hall itself is tarnished.--------------