The New York Times notes that on the list of nominees for the Pro Football Hall of Fame released last week, one name stands out: Darren Sharper. Should Sharper be elected, he is unlikely to turn up at the induction ceremony next summer. He is serving 20 years in prison for drugging and raping women. Sharper was a five-time Pro Bowl safety in a 14-year career with the Packers, the Vikings and the Saints. But his nomination stirred outrage because of his criminal history. That outrage was perhaps prompted by a misunderstanding of the rules for induction into the Hall.
Unlike baseball, there is no “character clause” in the rules for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Anyone can nominate someone for the football Hall of Fame — a news media member, a former player, even a fan. The only criteria is that the player played for five seasons, made one All-Pro team or Pro Bowl and has been retired for five full seasons. As a result, this year’s list is 94 names long. “The Hall of Fame does not nominate anyone,” Joe Horrigan, its executive vice president, said. “That is done by the public or official selectors. This is merely a list of names received by the Hall.” Horrigan would not say who, or how many people, nominated Sharper. It is extraordinarily unlikely that Sharper will be named to the Hall of Fame any time soon. But if he does make the cut, he will join an illustrious group of players that includes O. J. Simpson.