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Junior Seau family, Hall of Fame at odds over induction-speech policy

SAN DIEGO -- The family of the late Junior Seau denies they "fully support" the Pro Football Hall of Fame's policy preventing family members from speaking at the induction ceremony on behalf of deceased players, refuting a statement posted on the organization's website.

Seau's daughter, Sydney, was listed as a presenter on her father's behalf in a Hall of Fame news release sent July 15. However, she will be commenting only via video when her late father enters the Hall of Fame on Aug. 8.

The Hall of Fame said in a statement that it is consistent with its policy concerning the induction of deceased players.

In a statement released by the family's attorney, Megan Donohue, the Seau family denied the notion that representatives of the Pro Football Hall of Fame had clearly told the San Diego native's family that they would not have an opportunity to speak at the ceremony.

"The Seau family appreciates the overwhelming support for Sydney Seau to be able to accept Junior's induction into the Hall of Fame live and in her own words," Donohue said. "Unfortunately, the Hall of Fame is unwilling to reverse its decision despite communicating to the family earlier this year that Sydney would be able to speak at the ceremony. Contrary to the most recent statement by the Hall of Fame, the family does not support the current policy that prevents family members from delivering live remarks on behalf of deceased inductees.

"However, the Seau family does not want this issue to become a distraction to Junior's accomplishments and legacy or those of the other inductees."

On Saturday, David Baker, president of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, posted a letter to fans on the Hall's website stating in part: "The Hall has been in positive communication with Sydney, her mother, and the executor of Junior's estate, who each have communicated to us that they understand and fully support the Hall's policy."

Representatives of the Pro Football Hall of Fame reportedly told Bette Hoffman, trustee of Seau's estate, and Junior Seau's ex-wife, Gina, the morning after this year's Super Bowl in Glendale, Arizona, what the procedure would be, including that there would be no speech for deceased players.

"The policy of the Pro Football Hall of Fame since 2010 regarding individuals enshrined posthumously provides for an expanded presenting video (longer than the videos of living inductees) followed by the traditional unveiling of the bronzed bust and no additional comments made from the podium," the Hall of Fame said in a statement Friday. "This policy is not precedent setting and was implemented for the first time in 2011 when former Los Angeles Rams great Les Richter was inducted posthumously."

In the case of the Seaus, the policy fosters heightened sensitivity because of Seau's suicide in 2012 at age 43. After his death, he was diagnosed to have had chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a neurodegenerative disease that has been found in the brains of dozens of deceased NFL players due to repeated head trauma.

"It's frustrating because the induction is for my father and for the other players, but then to not be able to speak, it's painful," Sydney Seau told The New York Times, which earlier reported the story Friday. "I just want to give the speech he would have given. It wasn't going to be about this mess. My speech was solely about him."

The video presentation will last about five minutes, longer than the usual videos by about two minutes, the Hall said. And Sydney Seau will make remarks in that video.

Seau's family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the NFL in 2013 alleging that the league concealed the dangers of football-related head trauma over a period of several years.

"The Seau family never intended to use the Hall of Fame as a platform to discuss the serious mental-health issues facing the NFL today which are most appropriately addressed in a legal forum," Donohue said. "The Seau family looks forward to celebrating Junior's extraordinary accomplishments at the Hall of Fame."