When former New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor was being considered for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1999, voters were reminded to only consider what he accomplished on the field. Taylor was one of the greatest players of all-time and he redefined the game in many ways. His off-the-field issues were well-documented, but they almost seemed to add to his reputation as one of the most-feared players in the league.
But on Thursday, the 51-year-old Taylor was charged with third-degree rape and patronizing a prostitute. His lawyer, Arthur Aidala, has denied the charges. Aidala said Friday on WFAN radio in New York that Taylor may have had "some contact" with a 16-year-old runaway.
Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports had a pretty strong take on this entire episode last Thursday:
"If Taylor ends up being guilty on just about any level of raping a 16-year-old girl, he not only should be thrown in prison, but out of the Pro Football Hall of Fame," writes Cole. "The greats of the game, even the ones who have their own issues, shouldn’t have to sit next to somebody like Taylor, a guy who has been given more chances than a millionaire in a casino."
Cole prefaced his commentary by saying he believes in "due process," but it's obvious that he thinks a conviction should lead to Taylor's dismissal from the hallowed Hall. I think that's a pretty slippery slope if the Hall of Fame committee took this unprecedented step. The voters have always been instructed to only consider what a player has accomplished on the field.
If that's the agreed upon standard, it doesn't make sense to boot a player from the Hall based on a crime that takes place after his induction. It seems like the judicial system should handle Taylor's punishment. The Hall of Fame committee isn't in the business of judging a player's entire life. It takes a look at a player's NFL career and then makes a decision.
I see no reason to revoke that decision based on actions that take place following a player's retirement. Now I'm curious to see what you guys think.