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Debate Friday: Off-field criteria for HOF

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NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. AP Photo.

PFW is giving a nod to PFT this week. Our colleagues over at Pro Football Talk/NBC posted a blog item to promote their upcoming season preview magazine.

In it, among other features, is a revealing one-on-one interview between PFT's Mike Florio and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. The one item that's teased in the blog involves criteria for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Goodell, a champion of player conduct initiatives since becoming commissioner in 2006, believes a player's off-the-field behavior should be a factor when Hall of Fame voters decide who gets in and who doesn't. At the moment, only on-field or league-related contributions are given consideration.

"I do believe that it's more than just how you conduct yourself on the field," Goodell says in the PFT/NBC interview. "I believe very firmly that it's how you conduct yourself on and off the field as a member of the National Football League. That's part of your contribution to the game.

"These are decisions the Hall of Fame is going to have to make, not me," Goodell adds. "But if you ask me a specific question, 'Is it just their contributions on the field and their statistics?' I don't think that's the case. I think it's about what you contribute to the game of football."

That brings us to this week's *Debate Friday *question:

Should off-the-field conduct be a consideration for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame?

Read the arguments from the PFW writers, then cast your vote in this week's poll.

Erik Scalavino says, "Yes …"

Recent high-profile cases of bad behavior by both current (e.g., Ben Roethlisberger) and former (i.e., Lawrence Taylor) NFL stars probably had something to do with why this question came up in the interview with Goodell. Now, I've had my share of issues with some of the commissioner's proposals and changes to the league of late, but from day one, I've been on board with his efforts to establish higher standards for player conduct. This is another step in the right direction in that regard.

The first question that arises is, who determines the very subjective definition of "good behavior?"

I say, let's start simple. Felony convictions and/or time served behind bars should be included in the discussion of any player's worthiness to be a Hall of Famer. To be clear, I'm not even saying this should automatically disqualify a candidate, just that the information be presented and debated by the voting committee.

The other question is, should current inductees of the Hall, like Taylor or O.J. Simpson, be subjected to on-going scrutiny to maintain their membership?

Again, I think keeping this simple is the best approach, at least initially. I'm willing to allow for a grandfather clause to protect their status, though I wouldn't be opposed, either, if the Hall of Fame eventually came up with a reasonable method of removing any member whose behavior renders them unworthy.

Given the absurd amounts of money that these athletes are paid for what they do (thanks to the loyalty of a hard-working fan base, most of whom will never approach the kind of riches these guys acquire), I don't think it's too much to ask that they act like responsible adults and represent the league properly during and after their careers.

Like it or not, they are role models to the young and impressionable in our society. The law-breakers in the lot, regardless of how great they played the game, should suffer the consequences. Rewarding the reprehensible only sends the wrong message.

Besides, the Hall is already overcrowded with too many players who were marginal on the field at best. Canton should be a place where only the very, very, VERY best – players and people – are allowed entry.
~ ES

Paul Perillo says, "No …"

I understand and appreciate what Commissioner Goodell is doing with regard to player conduct. He's making people accountable for their actions and slowly he's making everyone aware that the foolishness that too often invades sports will not be tolerated.

But I don't agree with the idea of holding potential Hall of Famers to higher standards than the other players in terms of their off-field behavior. I've read Mike Florio's piece about adding a personal conduct standard to the requirements for induction to the Hall and how certain levels of law breaking might make a player ineligible.

My question with that would be, how are we going to determine which infractions are worthy of banning and which aren't? It's not a simple cut-and-dried area. I think we can all look at someone like O.J. Simpson and have the belief that his heinous crimes (proven or otherwise) should make him ineligible. What about someone like Michael Vick? Should he be ineligible? If so, why is he allowed to continue playing?

Not all arrests are created equal and for sure many NFL players who do have run-ins with the law in their pasts aren't necessarily bad people. I just believe it's a difficult process when you're trying to decide which infractions are severe enough to prevent eligibility to the Hall. Is a DUI enough for a Hall ban? How about a DUI that involves harm to someone?

The bottom line to me is the Hall is about the best players, coaches and contributors in league history. If you want a Hall for the best people in league history, then create it. Until then I don't see the need to make any changes to an already winning formula.
~ PP

So, what's your take on the Hall of Fame debate? Cast your vote in this week's Debate Friday poll.

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