Terrell Owens did not attend the Pro Football Hall of Fame ceremony, and this has some people up in arms. According to Mike Florio, the Hall of Fame is considering a requirement that finalists be required to agree they will attend the ceremony before the final votes are tallied. This is a horrible idea, and making a mountain out of T.O. hill. It’s a solution seeking a problem. Up until this point, enshrinees capable of attending did so. For most, getting up in front of the large crowds of fans in Canton is a pinnacle moment. It will almost universally continue to be so.
So my recommendation would be to do nothing.
The alternative to that–requiring what is in essence a loyalty oath–is the worst possible move. The Hall of Fame voters are supposed to make their decision based on the merits of the finalists’ careers. There are already plenty of claims of bias when it comes to how the process plays out, but much of this is assuaged by the voting numbers. Even if some selectors have grudges, the body of voters as a whole can balance that.
But to put an explicit requirement of pledging attendance to the decision of who gets in and who does not opens up so many other issues that it is not worth it. I hope that this is the case of an idea being floated publicly to gauge whether it is appropriate, and that the people with the power to make this decision actually do take measure of how monumentally dumb this would be. What Terrell Owens did was his own decision but outside the experience of 99.9% of the inductees. The Hall of Fame requiring such loyalty would make the selection process a farce.