Voter fraud: Why sportswriters shouldn't vote for sports awards


Sportswriters and broadcasters shouldn’t be involved in the Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement voting process. They also shouldn’t vote for MVPs, Rookie of the Years, Coach of the Years, All-Stars or pretty much anything else in any sport.

Football. Baseball. Basketball. Whatever. Don’t vote. Ever.

Journalists cover the news or offer commentary on the news. They don’t make the news. It’s a simple concept. Trying to justify anything else is an exercise in mental gymnastics and situational ethics. There’s a reason numerous media outlets prohibit their employees from participating in voting on integrity grounds.

And that was even before it was reported Monday that the Pro Football Hall of Fame is considering establishing a rule – call it the Terrell Owens Rule – that in order for a player to be considered for enshrinement, he must commit, if selected, to attending the ceremony in Canton, Ohio. At least, that’s according to ProFootballTalk, which cites multiple sources saying it was discussed last weekend.

Owens, troubled that it took him three years to get voted in, skipped out on Saturday and instead gave his speech at his college alma mater, UT-Chattanooga.

Whether the rule goes through or not remains to be seen. It doesn’t matter, though. The idea that it was even broached should serve as one more emergency siren for the 46 current voters (and anyone who might replace them) to get the heck out.

Committing to attend a Hall of Fame ceremony has nothing to do with a player’s football career. It’s an exercise in economic hostage-taking. You either have a Hall-of-Fame resume based on football accomplishment or you don’t. Considering someone’s willingness to add to the local revenue bump of enshrinement weekend or bow to the prestige of a museum is ridiculous.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame is a business. It enjoys non-profit status with the IRS, but the bottom line is fed by selling tickets, merchandise and television rights. Nothing wrong with that, but it, in turn, should be able to run its own voting process via a panel of former players, coaches, executives or maybe a fan vote or a blind draw or whatever else it dreams up.

Instead of speaking at the Hall of Fame events in Canton, Ohio, Owens celebrated his induction at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, where he played football and basketball, and ran track. (AP)
Instead of speaking at the Hall of Fame events in Canton, Ohio, Owens celebrated his induction at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, where he played football and basketball, and ran track. (AP)

Why are sportswriters or sports broadcasters even considered qualified to handle this task? Only in rare occasions did they play pro football or coach pro football or have anything to do with pro football other than report on pro football.

It’s not the media’s sport. It’s not the media’s business. It’s the media’s job to cover the sport and the business. Big difference.

Vote on a Hall of Fame of great interview subjects? Sure. Actually, believing that being a writer or broadcaster makes them qualified to make the razor-thin determinations of in the Hall or out of the Hall is complete folly.

That isn’t to say the voters don’t try. This isn’t a criticism of their decisions, dedication or honesty. They do the best they can by engaging in an often-painstaking process. In general, they do a good job.

It’s just they shouldn’t even try.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame, and everyone else who uses the media to do their voting, prefer this set-up because it generates tons of publicity, it spares them the hassle of running it internally and it shields the museum from criticism and controversy.

When someone doesn’t get in, they are mad at the media, not the Hall itself, which could impact the bottom line.

The media doesn’t just line up to be the target here. It even agrees to follow the various hall of fames’ rules on who they can vote for (no Pete Rose in baseball) and how they vote (pure tally, committee debate, how many candidates, etc). It’s not a freewill operation. It’s allowing a subject (the Hall) that the media should be covering to dictate how the media should think and act.

The most often reason cited for the media to participate is that they have a breadth of knowledge about the sport and the players. Also, by not being an on-field competitor to any of the athletes, they are free from bias (or as close as it gets). Most will take the job very seriously, too. Basically, if not them, then who could even do this honestly?

It’s true, creating a good enshrinement process is extremely challenging.

So what? That’s the Hall of Fame’s problem. Let them figure it out. Then cover the process and offer commentary as needed.

You want to write columns or produce pieces that offer your opinion on who should be an MVP or whether T.O. deserves to be in the Hall? Absolutely produce that content.

Anything beyond that has never made sense; and makes less each and every day whether or not agreeing to a trip to Canton can disqualify a player no matter how many touchdowns they scored.

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