On the surface, when a professional football player has authored a whopping 16 NFL Records then unquestionably we’re talking about a first ballot hall of famer. That’s unless the athlete in question is Terrell Eldorado Owens (aka “T-O”). Despite the mercurial 6-3, 225 pound wide receiver that can still post a 4.4 40-yard dash at 44-years of age, Owens was overlooked in 2017 during his first year of eligibility. At this point, a lot of the attention shifted to “TO’s” reputation as being somewhat self-centered with publicity driven antics whose comments often suggested the “first person” point of view during his sessions with reporters. Who will ever forget the time after he scored a TD, immediately racing to midfield where the Dallas Cowboys star is painted to stand supreme over the image before being blasted by one of the poke’s defenders. Or the infamous statement of “I love me some me” that went viral; both aforementioned incidents while a member of the San Francisco 49ers (his first of five teams).
The attention should have shifted to the process. What is the criteria for earning Hall of Fame status? When one proves himself as eclipsing most of the league’s existing standards in his category and never created any reasons to be judged as anything other than a law-abiding citizen, then why impose the punishment of having him wait an extra year only to appear to prove to him who actually has the last say. Well Owens has countered that notion by announcing that when it comes to his Hall of Fame acknowledgement, he has chosen to make his speech at his alma mater of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Why is this being perceived as bad judgement when one decides to choose their own path when it comes to the biggest day in their professional life? “TO” can be labeled quite a few things during his colorful NFL career. But one thing he can’t be deemed guilty of is “not” being his own man. As 8-time Mr Olympian Lee Haney once proclaimed when I had the privilege of interviewing him some two decades back “There are too many sheep and not enough shepherds in our society”.
When Muhammad Ali was judged to be “anti-establishment” when he refused to accept being drafted due to religious beliefs during the View Nam conflict in the 60’s, he was publicly excoriated and stripped of his World Heavyweight Championship title, along with his passport taken so he could not earn a living outside of the country as well. Curt Flood challenged Major League Baseball in the courtroom and was “black-balled” from the sport for his fight for freedom of movement for MLB players. Although Flood never personally benefitted, he eventually won his case and “free agency” was born from this effort and mult-million dollar contracts soon followed when teams had to bid for talent. What about John Carlos and Tommy Smith’s black glove salute during the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City who were highlighting impoverished conditions in minority communities along with police brutality back home in the USA. They were promptly bounced from the confines and banned from participating in the Olympics for life. In recent times, we’ve seen similar sentiments surrounding the Colin Kaepernick case.
Regardless of which side of Owens situation one stands, he certainly has every right to make the decision that he’s made. As with the small sampling of cases mentioned above, that is one of the aspects that will always make this country great if one is bold enough to exercise their constitutional right and at times, accept the consequences.