Peter King solicited feedback on whether the Pro Football HOF should consider Darren Sharper for enshrinement. My email to King:
I generally enjoy your work but I think your steadfast insistence upon (a) remaining open to considering Sharper for the Pro Football Hall of Fame (“HOF”) and (b) limiting your consideration to his football merits is remarkably tone-deaf. A few reasons:
According to its website, the Pro Football HOF’s stated purpose is to “Honor the Heroes of the Game, Preserve its History, Promote its Values & Celebrate Excellence…” (my emphasis). The Pro Football HOF is a §501(c)(3) charitable organization for federal tax purposes. What values do the HOF and its electors promote by considering Sharper, a man charged in multiple jurisdictions with drugging and sexual assaulting his victims, for enshrinement? Like it or not, the HOF’s consideration of Sharper for membership promotes the “value” that a person’s abhorrent acts in life and society don’t matter if he entertained us on Sundays. Forgive me if I don’t want anything to do with a museum, or a league, that promotes that particular “value.”
I’m disappointed in what I see as the cowardice of you and your colleagues. You argue your hands are tied because the bylaws don’t permit you to consider off the field antics. Fine. Change the rules. Your hiding behind the rules is a cop-out. I suspect you can drive a rule change if you want. You command a weekly national audience through your otherwise great website and work with SI. I understand news reporters want to report the news and not make it, but this is an area where the newsmen are the news. Use your position as a positive force for good.
You stated previously that you did not want to alter the rules or consideration process, which have remained constant throughout the years. You noted the electors have never considered off the field incidents in prior cases, such as Lawrence Taylor. I understand the value of using consistent criteria for candidacy and election. At the same time, adhering to precedent does not requires slavish devotion to old rules when the rules may lead to an absurd and morally repugnant result. We’d never get anywhere as a society if we refused to change.
Here’s an easy reductio ad absurdum hypothetical: Suppose a player with Sharper’s football career goes off on the first day of retirement and becomes a dictator in another country during the first five years of his retirement. Also suppose that the former player is responsible for the death of hundreds of thousands of people during those five years. Do you consider him for enshrinement after the five year waiting period expires? I say it would be sheer madness, but your position suggests you would nonetheless consider the hypothetical player. That’s sad.
We’ve already seen how out of touch the NFL has been regarding violence towards women. Many of the league’s past and current players now cajole us, “No More,” in TV ads. But “No More” will be nothing but cynical lip service if the NFL’s museum ignores the pending charges of sexual violence against Sharper. Tabling Sharper’s candidacy while he faces felony charges, and banning him from consideration if convicted, is one tiny step for the HOF to “Promote its Values.” I’m strongly inclined to find another way to spend my Sundays if the HOF won’t take a stand against Sharper. Enough is enough.