After a week of controversy, the daughter of the late NFL star Junior Seau will speak on stage during her father’s induction at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the hall’s president said in a written statement.
Sydney Seau had been told she would only be a part of a video tribute to her father and would unveil his bronze bust, but wouldn’t speak to the audience live. The decision was based on five-year old policy, officials from the Hall of Fame said.
But Saturday, Fox Sports first reported Sydney Seau would be interviewed about her father during the ceremony next Saturday.
“Our goal is to maintain our policy regarding enshrinement speeches, but also show compassion and understanding,” Pro Football Hall of Fame President David Baker said in a statement.
When Sydney Seau unveils her father’s bust she will be joined by her two brothers and her half brother.
The Hall of Fame said Sydney Seau’s presentation speech will be included in the video, which will be two times longer than the tributes for the other inductees.
Seau was 43 when he killed himself in May 2012 and was posthumously diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a brain disease that can result from repeated head trauma. His case was among those that increased scrutiny of NFL policies regarding concussions and player safety.
The circumstances surrounding Seau’s death are not expected to be mentioned in the presentation.
Seau’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the league in 2013.
Junior Seau wanted Sydney, 21, to present him if he were ever chosen for the Hall of Fame, and a news release from the organization earlier this month implied that Sydney would indeed be the presenter.
Sydney Seau expressed frustration to The New York Times at not being able to speak at the event: “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.”
After the Times article, football writers and fans criticized the policy that would keep her from giving a live speech.
A Hall of Fame spokesman told CNN last week that the original decision to not have the family speak was made “strictly on the policy” and “has nothing to do with any other circumstances.”
The Hall of Fame had said it was following a policy initiated in 2010. According to a statement released last week, the ceremony features “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.” Honorees who are alive give a speech after their tribute videos.
In April, a federal judge approved a settlement to a lawsuit by more than 5,000 former NFL players who accused the league of hiding the dangers of concussions. For players who retired by July 7, 2014, the settlement provides up to $5 million for serious health effects associated with head trauma.
Seau’s family had opted out of this lawsuit, choosing to pursue a settlement independently.
A player who was once nicknamed the “Tasmanian Devil” for the intensity of his playing style, Seau was known for his willingness to keep playing despite pain and injuries. His friend and former NFL player Donald McPherson said players such as Seau operated under the mentality, “Ignore pain, leave it on the field and never back down.”
His Hall of Fame induction honors a career spanning 20 seasons for the Chargers, Dolphins and Patriots. He was an eight-time first team All-Pro.
Junior Seau is the second player to be inducted posthumously. Former Los Angeles Rams linebacker/offensive lineman/placekicker Les Richter was honored in 2011. His son, Jon, appeared in the tribute video but didn’t speak at the ceremony.