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Off-the-field conduct and Hall of Fame consideration

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While poking around the Internet yesterday (had to do something while waiting for the Lost finale!), I came across an interesting article over at Pro Football Talk. The article was looking into the topic of the relevance of off-field conduct and Hall of Fame consideration. It was of note because of some comments by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. PFT's Mike Florio had previously interviewed Goodell, and during that interview that Goodell spoke about the Hall of Fame and player conduct:

"I do believe that it's more than just how you conduct yourself on the field," Goodell said.  "I believe very firmly that it's how you conduct yourself on and off the field as a member of the National Football League.  That's part of your contribution to the game."

While the comments are directed at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, this is something that could easily be discussed by fans of any of the major professional sports. No sports is immune from player misconduct off the field. While it'd be nice to consider these professionals as supermen, in reality they're all too human, and just as fallible as anybody else.

There are a variety of ways to handle off the field conduct. After the jump we take a look at some of the options, and the problems that could result.

The easiest, or at the very least simplest, would be to just ignore it. Whether it's OJ Simpson, Lawrence Taylor, or any other all-pro football player, you'd simply consider what they did on the field. In the case of OJ, the issues became prominent long after he was in the Hall. For LT, people knew he had issues at the time of his enshrinement. The simplest option is to only consider on the field production.

A second option would create a bit of a messy divide among the enshrinees. That would be to include some requirement related to off-the-field conduct going forward. The problem with that, as pointed out by Florio, is then you'd have a line of demarcation since a lot of past players had their problems.

The other issue with including something about off-the-field is whether it's really fair given the way the media has developed thanks to the Internet and cable television. Conduct that is flaunted on TMZ or Deadspin these days would likely have never seen the light of day only 15 or 20 years ago. That's not to excuse some of the conduct we see, but it's certainly something to consider.

So, how should the issue be handled? Personally, I think the various Halls of Fame are meant to recognize on-field performance and abilities. Just as I think the Associated Press re-vote on DROY goes down a slippery slope of problems, I just don't know how a Hall of Fame could justifiably handle this. Some have suggested including off the field issues on a player's bust. Bill Simmons specifically mentions this with regard to Pete Rose. Include him, but mention his betting issues. The problem with this as a general policy is that a lot of times you're dealing with accusations that are most likely true, but due to legal maneuverings, the person in question gets off.

So how would you handle it?

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