In a disappointing move, the Pro Football Hall of Fame will not have a game official in the Hall of Fame for its centennial celebration, despite having relaxed its rules for one year only.
Art McNally, 94, a former referee and the head of officiating in the NFL from 1968 to 1990, was one of 10 finalists under consideration for a contributor-class slate of three individuals. For the 100th anniversary of the league’s founding, the Hall of Fame suspended the normal process by expanding the contributors slate and by having a separate blue-ribbon panel have a final vote on the enshrinements. In a typical year, one or two contributors are selected as finalists, and voted by the Hall of Fame voters at large. This year, those voters will not vote on the contributors and seniors candidates in the expanded field.
Instead, Steve Sabol, Paul Tagliabue, and George Young were selected by the panel, as announced on NFL Network’s morning show Good Morning Football. They will be enshrined in the Hall this August.
Even though the normal voting process was suspended for this “centennial class,” McNally’s position as a finalist is the first time any official has advanced beyond a preliminary ballot in Hall of Fame voting. But it is a very notable shutout that officials have been repeatedly snubbed. The only person that is labeled as “an officiating figure” in the Hall is Hugh “Shorty” Ray, who was an instrumental technical adviser of rules matters to the commissioner from 1938 to 1952. Ray was a college official and his role in the NFL did not have him supervising the officials, which at the time was the commissioner’s authority.
Football Zebras made the case for Art McNally’s nomination back in February 2018.
If an official cannot get in with such a relaxed standard of entry, it sadly means that football stands alone among its sports shrines in that those responsible for the integrity of the game are not worthy of individual recognition.