Junior Seau’s enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame was bound to be an uneasy moment for the NFL. Following the linebacker’s suicide in 2012 and doctors subsequently finding evidence of CTE in his brain, Seau in some way became synonymous with the NFL’s head-injury crisis. While hardly the only prominent former player to take his life and be diagnosed with CTE, he was the most celebrated. His death touched off a panic in fans like no other.
The world won’t get any reminders of CTE and suicide and the lawsuit the family has filed against the NFL during Seau’s induction on August 8, however. Because, according to The New York Times, the Hall of Fame won’t allow it.
But the Hall of Fame does not plan to let Sydney or anyone else speak on his behalf. Instead, it will only show a video that will commemorate his career, while avoiding questions about his suicide in 2012 and the subsequent diagnosis of traumatic brain injury that doctors said they believed was brought on by hits to his head. Nor will the video mention the lawsuit that Seau’s family has filed against the N.F.L., which is trying to curb injuries in active players and address brain disease in thousands of retired ones.
To the Hall of Fame officials, simply showing the video, which will not invoke Seau’s suicide, will keep the focus on his playing days. To his family still grappling with his death, though, the tribute seems underwhelming for one of the sport’s best linebackers and a highly regarded figure in Southern California where Seau grew up and played most of his career.
The Hall used to allow presenters for deceased inductees to speak, though Hall of Fame spokesman Joe Horrigan said the presenters often would just repeat what was in the video produced for the player by NFL Network. So the HOF a few years ago stopped allowing presenters for deceased players. Of course, this is an extraordinary case and that rule was simply made out of concern for the entertainment for fans watching. The Pro Football Hall of Fame and the NFL owe it to Junior Seau to allow his daughter, Sydney, to speak. They owe him more than a video that avoids entirely the reason why he took his own life.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame in the near future plans on making itself a “Disney of Pro Football” with assisted living centers for former players and chances for fans to interact with those players. Obviously some of these players are going to be dealing with the same struggles that Seau did in the years before his death. To claim the Hall is only an institution that only concerns itself with on-field matters is both disgusting and a contradiction for how the Hall plans to make market itself in the future.