Anthony Mahon / culture / February 2017

Terrell Owens Robbed of Football Hall of Fame Legacy

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So close..

The Pro Football Hall of Fame is one of the most prestigious awards that a professional football player can receive. Former Super Bowl MVP Kurt Warner, single-season rushing touchdown record holder Ladainian Tomlinson, and Denver Broncos all-time leading rusher Terrell Davis are just a few names that have received a Hall of Fame honor this year.

For former NFL wide receiver Terrell Owens, it’s an honor he has been robbed of twice.

Terrell Owens—known for his tenures with the 49ers, Eagles, Cowboys, Bills and Bengals—is widely considered one of the best wide receivers of all time. Possessing the second-most receiving yards and third-most receiving touchdowns in NFL history only strengthens Owens’ case as an all-time great. Despite his undeniable talent, T.O. has been criticized for his over-the-top on and off-field antics. His laundry list of entertaining yet sometimes excessive touchdown celebrations and controversies with teammates have led many to label him a “diva.”

This year, the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Selection Committee—a group comprised of 46 members of the media—and Hall of Famers Dan Fouts and James Lofton narrowed down a plethora of nominees to 15 finalists. While T.O. was one of the 15 finalists, he did not make the cut when the number of finalists were trimmed down to 10. Terrell Owens—obviously annoyed at having been snubbed for the second year in a row—took to Twitter to voice his displeasure.

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It’s okay to eat your feelings.

During an interview with The Midday 180 in Nashville via ESPN.com, San Diego Chargers quarterback Dan Fouts explained his decision not to vote for Terrell Owens to be in the Hall of Fame.

“I think his numbers are very worthy, but again on the other side of it, I think his actions on and off the field, on the sidelines, in the locker room, and the fact he played for so many teams and was such a great player, the question that comes back to me is if he was such a great player, why did so many of those teams get rid of him?”

T.O. wasn’t exactly dumped by “so many of those teams.” The San Francisco 49ers weren’t exactly eager to dump him, considering his eight-year tenure, which only ended after he tried to void the rest of his contract.

T.O. quickly shined after signing with the Philadelphia Eagles, having an impressive Super Bowl XXXIX performance of nine receptions for 122 yards, despite playing with a broken leg. The relationship between T.O. and the Philadelphia Eagles turned sideways when the former sought to renegotiate his back-loaded contract. Rather than increase his base salary, the Eagles released him. He went on to play for the Dallas Cowboys who released him only a few years into his stay with the team, but not after signing him to a new contract less than a year prior.

Fouts’ opinion was shared by Selection committee member Vic Carucci of Buffalo News who also factored Owens’ less-than-smooth departures from multiple organizations when deciding not to vote for him. However, Carucci’s explanation begins to display more bias than reason when his personal column says, “[Fouts] looked past the statistics, as did I.”

Statistics are a large part of what gets pro football players into the Hall of Fame. When the voters allow a person’s attitude to play a bigger role than clear-as-day numbers, it’s hard for them not to be accused of having an agenda. Many other fans and players have voiced their opinions before and since Terrell Owens missed the Hall of Fame for the second year.

Even former teammates, such as Steve Young and Patrick Crayton, have come to T.O.’s defense. Sure, “America’s Sweetheart” isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when Terrell Owens is mentioned. His clashes with Jeff Garcia and Donovan McNabb don’t exactly portray him in the most positive light, but by his numbers alone, he’s an undoubted first-ballot Hall of Famer. Considering OJ Simpson has never been removed from the Hall of Fame and Lawrence Taylor made it in as a first-ballot, it’s safe to say that morality hasn’t played a huge role in determining a player’s HOF fate. Unlike the two names mentioned, T.O. doesn’t have a rap sheet, so why only count morality when it’s in line with an agenda?

The complaints about Terrell Owens’ locker-room behavior is coming from outsiders based off of hearsay and opinions, not facts. The fact is Terrell Owens is in the upper echelon of all-time great receivers. Therefore, he should’ve received his gold jacket a year ago, instead of missing the cut twice. The Pro Football Hall of Fame shouldn’t be a popularity contest. It should be about a player’s performance on the field.

T.O. will definitely be a Hall of Famer in the future, but missing induction twice has left a sour taste in his mouth.

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