Junior Seau’s absence will speak loudly at his Hall of Fame induction
CANTON, Ohio — Sydney Seau doesn’t have to say a word publically at the Pro Football Hall of Fame to draw more attention to the sport’s potential dangers.
Her father’s absence says enough.
Junior Seau won’t be here Saturday to celebrate his induction. He committed suicide three-plus years ago, likely sparked by brain damage suffered while playing the game he loved.
Those circumstances led Seau’s family to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the NFL that is still in litigation. Seau’s induction also has drawn major media attention back toward the topic of safety in football after mainstream news coverage had dipped once the league reached a settlement with former players suing over concussion damage in August 2013.
Patrick Hruby, who has steadfastly covered the concussion issue, recently wrote a thought-provoking story about Seau for Vice Sports. According to the @NFLobjectors Twitter feed, one out of every five Hall of Fame members who died between 2007 and 2015 was confirmed to have chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which is the degenerative brain disease that can stem from concussions.
Sydney Seau is well aware of the numbers. Her father was found to have suffered from CTE. The manner in which Seau committed suicide – shooting himself in the chest rather than head – allowed that information to be revealed in his autopsy.
It also has turned Junior Seau’s brain into a political football that is being kicked, punted and passed around. He has become the subject of lengthy stories and books focused on what caused one of the greatest players in NFL history to take his own life at age 43. Seau’s undoing also will be featured in the upcoming movie “Concussion” in which actor Will Smith portrays Dr. Bennet Omalu, a forensic pathologist whose work helped definitively connect brain damage to excessive or improperly treated concussions suffered while playing football.
Those who are unhappy with the NFL’s controversial handling of the concussion issue or have a bent against the sport itself would love to see Sydney Seau use her father’s induction as a platform to rage. Such bitterness would be justified. She already spoke about the brain damage she believed her father suffered because of undiagnosed concussions during a 2013 interview with Frontline.
Don’t expect her to revisit the topic Saturday night in Canton.
Sydney already had the chance to take her pound of flesh Thursday night but passed when given an interview opportunity by NFL Network during the Hall’s Gold Jacket dinner. (She accepted a plaque on her father’s behalf.)
Sydney told the New York Times last month that had she gotten the chance to deliver a formal induction speech it “wasn’t going to be about this mess.”
She will speak during a 6½-minute video highlighting her father’s 20-year career. She and Junior’s three sons will unveil the bust honoring him. And then Sydney will be given one last chance to make a statement with an interview opportunity coming off the stage inside Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium.
The Seau family, especially Junior’s mother, is still grieving about the loss of their pride and joy. Bringing up the topic again will make the pain worse.
There also will be another time to share further thoughts as the wrongful death lawsuit unfolds and ultimately gets resolved.
Rather than talking about his death, Sydney may want to reference the infectious personality that made Junior one of the NFL’s most beloved players among fans and his peers. How his foundation touched the lives of thousands in the San Diego area. How nobody loved the game of football more or played it with more passion that her father.
Or maybe Sydney will simply stay silent and embrace the moment she wished she could have shared with her father.
“We want this to be a great day for Sydney and her family,” Hall of Fame president David Baker told FOX Sports last weekend. “Should she choose not to speak afterward, that should be ok.”
Yes, it should.