Pro Football HOF Enshrinement Ceremony Filled With Heartfelt Speeches From Inductees
A "smaller than usual crowd of 13,500" was on hand Saturday at Tom Benson HOF Stadium to watch the enshrinement of the Pro Football HOF Class of '17, which consisted of Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones and former players Jason Taylor, LaDainian Tomlinson, Kurt Warner, Terrell Davis, Morten Andersen and Kenny Easley, according to Jim Thomas of the ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH (8/7). In Dallas, David Moore noted Jones spent "nearly 37 minutes" on stage, and he "managed to touch on all constituencies and keep an eye on the future of the NFL." Jones, sporting a "pair of custom gold tennis shoes" given him by Nike co-Founder & Chair Emeritus Phil Knight, "paid tribute to owners, coaches, players, business partners and media." Jones was "disciplined in his delivery" and "largely on point." His speech was about the "love of family, relationships and football" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 8/6). In Ft. Worth, Clarence Hill Jr. noted the "only surprise" during Jones' speech was the "lack of tears" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 8/6). ESPN.com's Todd Archer noted Knight has "commissioned two other custom-made shoes over the years: a pair for Tiger Woods and a pair for Michael Jordan." The friendship of Jones and Knight "goes back more than 20 years" (ESPN.com, 8/5). In Dallas, George & Moore noted close to 1,000 guests were "treated to a party for the ages Friday night at Glenmoor Country Club" celebrating Jones' induction. It is "believed the Jones family spent well over" $10M to "surpass any other" HOF party. Justin Timberlake was the "featured entertainer." Singer Jon Bon Jovi, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings were on hand (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 8/6). Also in Dallas, Brandon George noted during the party Jones "watched a tribute video" in his honor. The video "included some heavy hitters, including" Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 8/6).
GOING ALL THE WAY: The AP's Barry Wilner noted Tomlinson "stole the show" with a "powerful speech calling for 'Team America' to be a place for inclusion and opportunity" (AP, 8/6). USA TODAY's Jarrett Bell wrote he could have listened to Tomlinson for "twice as long" as the 26 minutes he spoke. That is how "inspiring the message was from the former running back, who not only revealed the depth of his heart but also challenged America to develop a unified soul." The "Obama-esque speech was one of -- if not the absolute best -- the most stirring messages ever delivered" Saturday (USATODAY.com, 8/6). In Houston, Matt Young wrote it was the "final six minutes of the speech that moved the crowd and left listeners thinking about what he said." It felt "more like a speech given by a great political candidate than it did by a football player" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 8/6). The STAR-TELEGRAM's Hill Jr. wrote after that "heartfelt and soul-stirring speech," Tomlinson "may be asked to run again, this time for public office" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 8/6).
TIME TO TALK: ESPN.com's Sheil Kapadia noted Easley concluded with a "nod toward athletes using their platforms to promote social activism." Easley: "Black lives do matter. And all lives matter, too. But the carnage affecting young black men today from random violence to police shootings across this nation has to stop" (ESPN.com, 8/5). In Canton, Cliff Hickman noted Easley "captured the attention of the audience right from the start and held it throughout his speech" (Canton REPOSITORY, 8/6). ESPN's Jim Trotter said there are always going be people "who say, ‘You shouldn't use that platform to speak on these issues.’" Trotter: "You can go back to what Kellen Winslow Sr. spoke out about some of the issues of race in this country. ... Not everyone supports the method of (Colin Kaepernick's) protest last year, but they support the message. So I think they were happy to hear what was said by Kenny Easley" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 8/6).
KICKED OUT OF BOUNDS: Andersen in his speech "openly expressed his deep love" for the Saints and Owner Tom Benson. Andersen: "Benson has done a remarkable job not only with the Saints, but throughout professional football. We're here in Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium tonight. I'm thankful we have an owner who reinvests in the game" (Canton REPOSITORY, 8/6). ESPN.com's Mike Triplett noted Andersen at times "drew huge laughs," and the HOF "might want to think about bringing" him back next year as emcee (ESPN.com, 8/5). PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Michael David Smith noted in the official video shown when Andersen received his gold jacket and posted on social media by the NFL, a narrator said, “The soccer player from Denmark first kicked an American football in high school.” As those words are spoken, a "soccer team picture is shown, with one player highlighted." One issue with that is that the player "isn’t Andersen." Another problem is that Andersen "never even played for the team pictured." A third problem is that the team "pictured comes from Norway, not Denmark" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 8/5). CBSSPORTS.com's John Breech wrote, "Predictably, a few people on Twitter let the NFL know that they got it wrong" (CBSSPORTS.com, 8/5).
TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE: The lengths of the induction speeches were: Jones (36:20), Warner (32:45), Taylor (31:48), Davis (26:33), Tomlinson (26:01) Easley (21:55) and Andersen (19:39) (Canton REPOSITORY, 8/6). THE MMQB's Peter King writes he "enjoyed the speeches," but notes if all inductees go "microscopically through his life in the game, then seven men are going to take five hours to do the show." The "most sensible way" to streamline the speeches is to impose a time limit. King: "Tell each new Hall of Famer he's got 22 minutes, and at the 23-minute mark, NFL Network's going to commercial. ... This cannot drone on for five hours. It's just too much" (MMQB.SI.com, 8/7).
SEEING THE FUTURE: The AP's Wilner noted while the "overall village project moves forward," Pro Football HOF President & CEO David Baker has "gotten the league to move the Hall of Fame game to Thursday night, thus allowing the inductions on Saturday to culminate the week of activities." However, the "turnout for the inductions appeared much smaller than in recent years." Tom Benson HOF Stadium itself has "undergone a major transformation from, basically, an uncomfortable high school arena to what Baker believes will be a destination venue seating 'an intimate 23,000.'" The NCAA D-III football championship game is "coming to Canton" in '20 and '21, and the Black College HOF Classic "will be played there." The Ohio State high school football championships "will return, leaving the Buckeyes' Horseshoe in Columbus." An 80,000-square-foot indoor performance center already has "booked the Division III men's volleyball championship" in '22. It will have a "full-size football field and a configuration for basketball" when it opens in '20 (AP, 8/6). A Canton REPOSITORY editorial carries the header, "Everyone Shares In Village's Success." Canton "finally is catching its breath" (Canton REPOSITORY, 8/7).
WHO'S NEXT? In Denver, Nicki Jhabvala wrote if Davis "had a chance to speak" in front of the selection committee about Broncos Owner Pat Bowlen, he would "tell it this: It's time." Davis: "I am confident that Pat Bowlen is going in. It’s a question of when. We’ve got to get more momentum behind it, but I think he’s going it" (DENVER POST, 6/15). Former Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said, "There's no question in my mind that he's going to get in. The question is is it going to be next year or the year after that?" (DENVER POST, 8/7). ESPN.com's Mike Reiss noted Patriots Owner Robert Kraft "should get in, but it just might take a little time" (ESPN.com, 8/5). In Boston, Ron Borges wrote Kraft "cannot claim to be a founding father of the game, but he can claim more than saving pro football for New England and creating one of the NFL’s greatest dynasties." He also "played a key role in negotiating the lengthiest and most lucrative TV contracts in league history, thus financially solidifying all 32 NFL teams, and in settling the longest lockout in sports history" at a time when his wife was passing away (BOSTON HERALD, 8/7). Also in Boston, Ben Volin wrote asking when it will be time for Kraft to "get fitted for a gold jacket." The AP's Wilner, a HOF voter, said, "I believe Robert Kraft will have lots of support for induction into the Hall of Fame. ... I believe his name will come up very soon." The '18 class will have "only one Contributor spot," and the '19 class "will have two." Kraft will have to "compete with several qualified candidates for those three spots," including Bowlen, former Cowboys VP/Player Personnel Gil Brandt, former Giants GM George Young, former Redskins and Chargers GM Bobby Beathard and former NFL Comissioner Paul Tagliabue, plus others. Volin noted "multiple voters mentioned that Bowlen ... might be next up" (BOSTON GLOBE, 8/6).