Terrell Owens made waves when he announced in June that he wouldn’t attend the enshrinement ceremony for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2018 — his class.
Owens had finally been selected for the Hall in his third year of eligibility, despite having the second-most receiving yards, second-most receiving touchdowns and fifth-most receptions in NFL history at the time of his retirement.
Media members on the selection committee have said previously that Owens had to wait because he wasn’t a good teammate, and because of some of his antics on the field and in the locker room (the Hall bylaws say nothing about being a good teammate as criteria for entry).
In a short film, “Why.”, posted to YouTube on Tuesday, Owens explains why he became the first living inductee to skip the Hall ceremony and gives a behind-the-scenes look at his celebration at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga.
‘You wanted me to fail, but I didn’t’
“Why.” opens with Owens in a darkened room, old televisions surrounding him, and clips from sports pundits playing, and one of his harshest critics, Fox Sports’ Skip Bayless, figuring prominently.
“The worst teammate in all of sports is coming to the Hall of Fame.”
“He has the worst quality for me, of anybody: neediness.”
“T.O. has always worn his emotions on his sleeve.”
“Not only was he not a first-ballot Hall of Famer, I’m to the point he’s a no-ballot Hall of Famer.”
In between, Owens speaks.
“You didn’t want me to outwork the world. You didn’t want me to set records. You didn’t want me to celebrate. You didn’t want me to become a legend. But I did,” he says.
“All I wanted was to be me. You wanted me to fit the mold. You wanted me to be who you thought I should be. You wanted me to fail. But I didn’t,” he continues.
“You said I was selfish. You said I was a bad teammate. You said I was a cancer. You said I didn’t deserve it.
“Then you wanted me to be there — for you. Not for me,” Owens says.
‘It’s almost like getting ready for a game’
We then see Owens inside McKenzie Arena on the Tennessee-Chattanooga campus, on August 4, the day of the induction ceremony at the Hall in Canton, Ohio, and also the day Owens held his ceremony.
As he’s getting ready, Owens admits to some butterflies. “It’s almost like getting ready for a game,” he says.
In a sit-down for cameras before his ceremony, Owens sheds some light on his process of deciding to do his own thing. It happened after the new class visited the Hall in April, and Owens spoke to David Baker, the president of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“Coming out of there, understanding and knowing that he said that they don’t have a vote as a Hall of Fame, the Hall of Famers don’t have a vote, and for me, I felt that there was a disconnect,” Owens said. “Because the Hall of Fame committee, they appoint the writers that ultimately nominate and induct Hall of Famers into the Hall of Fame.
“Those very writers that they appointed basically turned their back on everything that’s put in place. In terms of the criteria, I fit to the ‘T.’ That’s mainly why I’m making my decision.”
While saying numerous times that he has nothing but respect for the other men in the Hall, Owens also says, “There’s a few Hall of Famers I don’t take a care to; guys that have done far worse things off the field than I have, so I’m not going to continue to allow people in the media to tear me down, tarnish my character. They’ve done it for so many years.
“I owe myself a lot of respect not to do it their way. This is the way I want to do it. I’ve earned that gold jacket.”
At least one Hall voter, former New York Daily News writer Gary Meyers, has said he wouldn’t have voted for Owens to be enshrined if he’d known Owens wouldn’t attend the induction, which is the height of petty and just underscores Owens’ point.
‘This is for you’
Thousands of fans greeted Owens with chants of “T.O.! T.O.!” as he walked onto the small stage at McKenzie Arena.
During his speech, he asks those who have ever felt like an outcast to stand up, and then asks those in the crowd to stand if they’ve ever felt misunderstood. Nearly everyone in the crowd stands.
“This is for you,” he says.
On camera, Owens says he has no regrets about his decision to hold his own ceremony, adding, “This is probably the happiest I’ve ever felt.”
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