Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Hayes' Shot at NFL Hall Long Overdue

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Hayes' Shot at NFL Hall Long Overdue

Article excerpt

Byline: Gene Frenette, Times-Union sports writer

While growing up in Jacksonville and in the early stages of his NFL career, Bob Hayes dealt with his share of segregation: Not being able to eat in certain restaurants or stay at hotels that had welcomed his white competitors.

In that respect, he was no different than many African-American athletes of his era and others that preceded him.

But until last week, Hayes had experienced a different kind of segregation that, sadly, might have gone down as the greatest injustice of his lifetime -- never being nominated for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

For years, and especially after his death last September, the outcry from Hayes' supporters is that he should be enshrined in Canton. Those emotions reached a fever pitch at his funeral when the Rev. Rudolph McKissick Jr. of Bethel Baptist Church made a passionate plea during one of many Hayes eulogies. He said that if Bullet Bob wasn't worthy of the Hall of Fame, then "they ought to SHUT IT DOWN!"

Predictably, that brought a thunderous ovation from a congregation that came to honor Jacksonville's greatest athlete. But the real oversight on Hayes' football resume isn't that he's without a bust in Canton. It's that his credentials were never deemed worthy enough to be put to a vote.

That changed five days ago when the senior committee made Hayes one of its two nominees for consideration at the next Hall of Fame meeting on Jan. 31, the day before Super Bowl XXXVIII in Houston.

Hayes will be one of 15 candidates that a 39-member panel, which will elect a minimum of three and maximum of six nominees, must deliberate on the merits for inclusion. Finally, after 21 years of never making it past the nominating process, of being unjustly excluded from his career even warranting serious discussion, Hayes' case will be heard. …

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