FOX Sports Exclusive
Hall of Fame issue is far from over
I would argue that the Pro Football Hall of Fame board of selectors should hire Karl Rove or James Carville to defend its non-transparent, hypocritical, ripe-for-abuse selection process, but Peter King’s gang appears quite skilled at disingenuous political maneuvering.
Our tolerance for hypocrisy tickles and angers me.
Powered by Facebook and with virtually no bloodshed, Egyptians wrested power from Hosni Mubarak in a matter of weeks.
We don’t surrender (or share) power that easily in America.
The reaction to my criticism of the HOF selection process gives sports fans a glimpse into how our real power people respond to threats to their rule. You can see why it’s incredibly difficult to enact significant change or root out corruption in this country.
Criticized for ignoring the principles we as journalists champion — transparency, diversity — for others, the HOF selectors rationalized, name-called, lied and tried to shoot the messenger.
Two voters, Len Pasquarelli and Bob Gretz, called me an idiot. Gretz called me a “blob” and falsely claimed that I waged a campaign to have him removed as a selector so I could take his place.
There is no reason for me to waste time responding to Pasquarelli and Gretz’s childish and illogical attacks. Mike Florio and Michael David Smith of Profootballtalk.com and Jason Lisk of TheBigLead.com already spanked Pasquarelli and Gretz for their foolishness.
Nope. Sports Illustrated’s Peter The King and The Dallas Morning News’ Rick Gosselin are the Avon Barksdale and Stringer Bell of the HOF selection process. In his weekly Monday Morning Quarterback column, King rose from his throne and offered his defense of the fiefdom he and Gosselin oversee.
A Palin-like populist, King nailed himself to a cross (insinuating that I called him racist), pretended that the ethics of journalists are somehow superior to those of athletes and coaches, suggested my passionate support for Willie Roaf was a byproduct of “regionalism” and acted like it was ridiculous to think any back-room deals could influence the selection process.
I’m not doing his column justice. Read it yourself here.
After I read his column, I was left to believe one of three things about King: 1) He’s naive and simpleminded; 2) He never learned a single journalistic principle at Ohio University; 3) Money and fame caused him to abandon what few journalistic principles he ever had.
As a journalist, there is no reasonable way to defend the lack of transparency in the selection process. A journalist never should state an opinion of any kind he’s not willing to sign his name to.
News organizations, including FOXSports.com, that allow journalists to participate in a news-making process that requires secrecy toss away credibility in exchange for the power it gives reporters.
Being a Pro Football HOF voter is one of the most powerful tools in sportswriting. Picking up a phone and calling a football source and identifying yourself as a Hall voter is a crucial strategic advantage over nonvoters. King knows this.
King also must surely realize that several voters have used their status as a tool to either land a job or avoid layoffs in these hard economic times.
It’s why the good-ol’-boy-network aspect of the board of selectors is wrong and offensive.
I did not call Peter King a bigot. He knows this. It’s a ploy, a tactic to garner sympathy.
I called King a human, a flawed one like all the rest of us.
I’ve written numerous times that we all, black, white, red, yellow, have our biases along racial lines. We all are inclined to favor people who look and think like us. We all struggle with fairness and the most unfair people are the people who think they’re incapable of being unfair along racial lines.
The naive and simpleminded refuse to think about the consequences of their action or inaction.
King is the leader of a good-ol’-boys network. There are black good-ol’-boys networks. The HOF board of selectors just happens to be a predominantly white one that sits in judgment of a diverse group of athletes.
I’ve already explained that there is power and profit in being on the HOF board of selectors. King rationalizes away the lack of diversity by saying three of 44 selectors is close to the equivalent of the percentage of black journalists in the Super Bowl press box. He implies that Mike Wilbon’s departure to cover the NBA for ESPN is the reason there are not four African-Americans on the board.
King is lying with numbers. Darryl Ledbetter was added this year, bringing the number back to its all-time high of three. Wilbon was the lone minority voice initially and then he was joined by Jarrett Bell and Mike Preston. When Wilbon bounced and The Baltimore Sun made Preston relinquish his position (because of the obvious journalistic hypocrisy), Bell was the lone minority voice until Jim Trotter was added.
Does it lead to black candidates being treated unfairly?
I don’t know. Ask Michael Irvin. I can guarantee you this: If 41 of 44 voters were black, The Playmaker would’ve been a first-ballot hall of famer. Irvin had to wait to get in because some people had a problem with his television work and off-the-field problems.
(You can count me among the people who had a problem with Irvin off the field and I ripped him in numerous columns. But Irvin deserved immediate Hall induction.)
I suspect Warren Sapp is going to have a problem getting in early. Or maybe there’ll be a stupid, 35-minute debate about Sapp the way there was for Deion Sanders.
If the selectors were predominantly black, I suspect Ed Sabol wouldn’t have stolen a spot from a deserving player.
Is Roone Arledge (“Monday Night Football”) the next TV executive the board of selectors will put in the Hall? Sabol was a candidate for years who never gained any traction. But word started filtering out in November and December that he would make the HOF this year.
Why? How was Sabol’s election gossiped about months before the vote?
Yeah, but there are no backroom deals. There aren’t any voting blocs. There aren’t a handful of voters with more power who create a false narrative the others follow like sheep.
(You noticed none of my critics touched the bogus “Hogs” narrative that put Russ Grimm in the HOF? Again, Grimm didn’t start on two of the three Redskins Super Bowl teams. Joe Jacoby, a starter on all three Washington Super Bowl teams, has a far superior résumé. Why Grimm instead of Jacoby? Sportswriters don’t need Jacoby, an assistant coach at a tiny school in Virginia. Grimm is ticketed to be an NFL head coach. Also, no one gave a rational explanation for Richard Dent getting in ahead of Roaf.)
Any real journalist knows this process has every ingredient for abuse. You have past-their-prime sportswriters, whose 401ks have been ravaged, desperately trying to hang onto their careers and relevancy. You have former players desperately trying to get into the HOF for two reasons: 1) their egos; 2) money.
Induction into the HOF is a lucrative second career. A HOFer can make a decent living just signing autographs at card shows. If he can speak, he can launch a career speaking to corporations.
It’s laughable to argue that adding former players and coaches to the process would compromise the integrity of the system. Hell, the players and coaches probably will have more integrity than the alleged journalists who are violating principles they espouse.
King suggested my support of Willie Roaf is some sort of uncontrolled “regionalism” or homerism. I was a local columnist at The Kansas City Star for 16 years.
King should know this is untrue. My reputation as a columnist was that I destroyed the home teams and athletes. The Chiefs player I was closest to was Derrick Thomas. He died tragically in 1999. I considered him a dear friend. When he didn’t get into the HOF his first year, I wrote that it might take 10 years for him to get in and that Kansas Citians should be patient.
CONTACT JASON WHITLOCK
Do I want to be a HOF voter?
No. Especially considering the rules of secrecy.
Did I ever work to be a HOF voter and try to get anyone removed?
Hell, no. Gretz’s allegation speaks to the lack of ethics among some on the board of selectors.
Two or three years ago, Jarrett Bell of USA Today told me he wanted to recommend that I join the board of selectors as an at-large voter. Bell was the lone black voter at the time. I told Bell he would be met with incredible resistance by the board of selectors. I never heard from Bell again about it. Jim Trotter was placed on the board.
I do want the process changed. I want players, coaches and current Hall of Famers to play a significant role. The people in charge now are compromised. Those who are not compromised are scared to publicly point out the unfairness they see because they don’t want to lose the power they have.
It’s a system and process that should shame legit journalists.