The Pro Football Hall of Fame inductions held in Canton, Ohio is where every NFL player dreams to be recognized and immortalized. NFL fans come from all over to witness this event and this weekend in Canton there are two ceremonies happening. Saturday night’s centennial class was celebrated and there will be two speeches that every fan will remember. Edgerrin James is a part of the 2020 Pro Football Hall of Fame class and is a NFL player known to do things his way. In his speech he acknowledged coaches, players, families and friends who have all helped him along his storied NFL career.
He began to share his journey and how people told him that he couldn’t wear his dreads nor could he show off his gold teeth.
“Perception isn’t always reality. It definitely wasn’t my reality. People looked at my gold teeth and dreads and were shocked and surprised I had never been under arrest or spent time in jail,” shares James.
“The Edge” as he became known, brought a certain flair to the league that challenged the image of most NFL players. He shares how he came into the league showing off his gold teeth and ended his career with a gold jacket.
“I started with gold teeth and ended with this gold jacket,” James exclaimed but there’s something he said before that we all will never forget. He brought up that everyone should “DO YOUR JOB” in the sense of protecting others around us. He shared that if he missed a block his quarterback would be hit. He went on to share that it’s certain people’s jobs to protect our communities and serve the people.
Former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue was finally inducted into the Hall after being denied entry four times. Tagliabue was commissioner during the outbreak of the Gulf War to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, institute a drug-testing program that rid the league from performance-enhancing drugs and Hurricane Katrina during his tenure from 1989-2006. He also kept labor peace after a turbulent period in the 1980s which saw the players go on strike twice. Tagliabue guided the NFL through expansion, significantly increasing revenues and helping pass the Rooney Rule have led to his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as part of the centennial class.
“In examining what makes the NFL so compelling, I always return to the players who make the game what it is,” former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said. “The athletes who thrive in the competitive environment of the National Football League tend to be intensely motivated individuals with clear values and high morals. Our players in the Hall of Fame epitomize these qualities. They understand work ethic, team work, accountability, and they are committed to do their best on and off the field,” Tagliabue continued.
“We need to respect the players for having these qualities and for what they represent as leaders in sports and in society. The perspectives of the players should be considered when they speak out on issues important to the league and to their communities. As Edge [Edgerrin James] put it, don’t speak out until you learn. Don’t act before you know. The voices of the players need to be heard. They need to be debated. And, and, and they need to be criticized if their views are not well grounded. But listen to the players, because they have a lot to teach all of us. They should not be demonized with slurs or disinformation. We’ve learned over the recent years that the players’ causes can create dialogue.”
Tagliabue has not been involved with the NFL’s day-to-day operations since his retirement in September 2006, and yet he has managed to understand how to directly address America’s current social justice issues in a manner current Commissioner, Roger Goodell, has failed to grasp. Goodell should have Tagliabue on speed dial because his entire speech was a challenge to the league to do better. I honestly feel as if former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue would’ve handled the Colin Kaepernick issue a lot better, but what do I know.
Tagliabue was not done sharing more about how he feels in regards to the league and its fans.
“For decades, the NFL has served to unite people all over America. You can see it here tonight. You can see it every weekend. The league has served to unite people irrespective of creed, color and attributes. The league has served as a focal point of shared community interest and civic pride for millions of people. But these qualities and outcomes cannot be taken for granted. It’s up to us to ensure they continue. The NFL in the 21st Century is not going to the NFL it was in the 20th Century. It’s going to continue to evolve as society evolves, but we need to remain committed both to evolution of change and tradition. I’m proud and grateful to have played a small part in shaping the evolution of the National Football League in the last four decades. Thank you all for honoring us and for helping us celebrate the past, the present and the future of pro football. It’s as great as it’s ever been.”