The NFL officially opens its 2018-2019 season today (Thursday) in Canton, Ohio, kicking off with the annual Hall of Fame Game, the season’s first featuring the Baltimore Ravens, their first ever Hall of Fame opening appearance, and the Chicago Bears. It’s the Bears fifth; the first one in 1968.
It’s pro football’s Hall of Fame Enshrinement Week. Ray Lewis, Randy Moss, Brian Urlacher, Terrell Owens, Brian Dawkins, Bobby Beathard, Jerry Kramer and Robert Brazile were selected in February by the Hall of Fame Committee to be enshrined this year.
Lewis, Moss and Urlacher were selected in their first year of eligibility, the class of 2018, whose induction takes place Saturday.
Owens, most times described as a polarizing player, was denied twice to the Hall before finally being selected this year, the third year of his eligibility, has declined to participate Saturday with his peers in Canton. Instead, Owens, a six-time Pro Bowl receiver, second to Hall of Famer Jerry Rice in career receiving yards and third in all-time touchdown receptions behind both Rice and Moss, will host a gathering Saturday afternoon, Aug. 4 at his alma mater, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
“While I am incredibly appreciative of this opportunity, I have made the decision to publicly decline my invitation to attend the induction ceremony in Canton,” stated Owens. “I wish to celebrate what will be one of the most memorable days of my life
It’s his choice, but hopefully, Owens’ speech will contain commentary that his haters deem polarizing, talking points that some prefer to not discuss, or to address elsewhere, away from professional football.
To make it personal, Owens, in his official gold jacket issued by the Hall of Fame, can address the criteria that would prevent a player with his stats, his on-field credentials from being an automatic selection. He can question the accountability of the voting and the criteria of how selections are voted in.
Owens could take a knee during the national anthem, like Colin Kaepernick and a number of NFL players and other professional athletes have done, initiating and identifying what is now perceived as a lack of interest from members of the population who have no interest in issues that affect our minority communities.
Owens could also explain in detail the exact reason that Kaepernick and other athletes have taken a knee, and effectively discuss the divide this act has caused—the false, hypocritical sense of America’s new found patriotism.
Owens could single out the president of the United States and team owners such as Jerry Jones (Dallas Cowboys) and Steven Ross (Miami Dolphins) for the stance that they have taken.
Owens can bring more attention to the problems that directly affect the football player, such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a progressive degenerative disease of the brain found in athletes with a history of repetitive brain trauma, concussions and hits to the head.
Owens can also bring attention to the insurance issues of other retired players and the older ones who helped build the NFL. It’s estimated that many of their life-altering physical ailments affect them later in life.
Owens can attempt to unite players to plan for the upcoming renegotiations of their antiquated Collective Bargaining Agreement that concedes a great deal of power to the league, its owners, agreed to years ago and lacking points beneficial to today’s player.
It’s important that Owens takes the opportunity from his satellite location to at least address several of these issues in his Hall of Fame acceptance speech, issues that strongly affect the brotherhood of all NFL players.