Group of Hall of Famers to boycott ceremony; demand salary, benefits
— The Sports Xchange —
Twenty Hall of Famers are threating to boycott future induction ceremonies unless their demands are met.
The group said in a letter to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith and Pro Football Hall of Fame president David Baker that they would not visit Canton anymore until other Hall of Famers receive health insurance and an annual salary that includes a share of league revenue.
The letter, which was obtained by ESPN, was sent by Eric Dickerson, the chairman of the Hall of Fame Board. It was signed by board members Marcus Allen, Mel Blount, Derrick Brooks, Jim Brown, Earl Campbell, Richard Dent, Carl Eller, Marshall Faulk, Mike Haynes, Rickey Jackson, Ronnie Lott, Curtis Martin, Joe Namath, John Randle, Jerry Rice, Deion Sanders, Bruce Smith, Jackie Smith, Lawrence Taylor, Kurt Warner and Sarah White, Reggie White’s widow.
However, Warner released a statement on Tuesday saying he never agreed to have his name attached to the letter.
The Hall of Famers’ letter read as follows: “We, the undersigned Pro Football Hall of Famers, were integral to the creation of the modern NFL, which in 2017 generated $14 billion in revenue. But when the league enshrined us as the greatest ever to play America’s most popular sport, they gave us a gold jacket, a bust and a ring — and that was it.
“People know us from our highlight reels. They see us honored and mythologized before games and at halftime, and it would be reasonable if they thought life was good for us. But on balance, it’s not. As a group we are struggling with severe health and financial problems. To build this game, we sacrificed our bodies. In many cases, and despite the fact that we were led to believe otherwise, we sacrificed our minds. We believe we deserve more. We write to demand two things: Health insurance and annual salary for all Hall of Famers that includes a share of league revenue.”
The group stated its plan should its demands not be met.
“Until our demands are met, the Hall of Famers will not attend the annual induction ceremony in Canton,” the letter read. “It’s well-known that the NFL is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2020, and while we are proud of our role in building this league, we don’t believe 100 years of player exploitation is something to celebrate. As we approach this momentous date, we challenge the NFL to honor its past by helping retired players instead of exploiting their images for marketing purposes.”
The group also called the respective salaries of Goodell and Smith as well as the construction of a $1 billion Hall of Fame village as evidence of the amount of money the NFL has in its pockets. Their reasoning presumably is to show that the league has the means to provide health insurance for all Hall of Famers.
“Meanwhile, many of us Hall of Fame players can’t walk and many can’t sleep at night,” the letter read. “More than a few of us don’t even know who or where we are. Our long careers left us especially vulnerable to the dangers of this violent sport, especially those intentionally hidden from us. Commissioner Goodell, there are better uses for that money.”
The Pro Football Hall of Fame was at the center of controversy in August when outspoken wide receiver Terrell Owens opted to protest the official ceremony in Canton and give his induction speech at his alma mater, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
Warner, who said he did not agree to sign the letter, released a statement.
“It has come to my attention today that a letter was sent out addressing HOFers benefits and profit sharing,” Warner wrote. “While I appreciate the efforts of those spearheading this movement and I fully support the fight to gain better benefits for past, current and future NFL players, I was not made aware of this letter and my name was mistakenly attached to it. I understand what ALL retired NFL players have given to advance our league and I believe it is extremely important to fight for lifetime benefits for each and every one of them. I feel we can make a great case to the NFL for their support of these efforts, however, I do not believe boycotting is the means to the end in this instance. I am hopeful that all sides will come together and have serious conversations about what needs to be accomplished to continue to make our league the greatest in the world, both for those currently involved and for the pioneers on which it was built.”