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Bias against Carter could be keeping him out of the Hall of Fame


With 1,101 career receptions, former Vikings, Eagles, and Dolphins (yes, Dolphins) receiver Cris Carter is fourth on the all-time list, only one catch behind Marvin Harrison. Carter ranks eighth in NFL history with 13,899 yards, and he’s fourth with 130 receiving touchdowns, behind only Jerry Rice, Terrell Owens, and Randy Moss.

But Carter never played in a Super Bowl, and he never had the kind of game-changing speed that forced defensive coordinators to always account for him. While those facts could provide the basis for denying him entry into the Hall of Fame, concerns exist that Carter has been overlooked due not to his performance, but his personality.

Most in the media regard Carter as a jerk. (In 11 years, I’ve encountered only one member of the media who doesn’t.) And there’s growing concern that, when it’s time to cast the secret Hall of Fame ballots, those who are voting against Carter possibly are being influenced by their personal dislike for him.

Now, Howard Eskin of WIP and NBC 10 reports via Twitter that Carter failed to gain entry last weekend because of a voter who has “personal problems” with Carter. Eskin writes that this cost Carter four votes, and that Carter missed the mark by one. In a subsequent Twitter entry, Eskin says that people close to Carter received this information from someone involved with the voting.

Eskin’s facts seem to be a little off. First of all, Carter didn’t make it to the final five, so he couldn’t have been one vote away from getting in. Though he may have been one vote away from supplanting one of the five modern-era finalists, Eskin painted with a much broader brush.

That said, a media source recently told me that one of the Hall of Fame voters was loudly complaining about Carter on one of the days preceding the vote.

The presence of only 44 voters coupled with an ultimate requirement that 80 percent of the voters provide the candidate a thumb’s up means that only eight “no” ballots can keep a candidate out. And even though the votes ultimately are kept secret, the system as currently constituted invites the same kind of back-scratching that routinely happens in the political process.

It would be naive to assume that this doesn’t happen with the Hall of Fame selection process, regardless of motivations.

Though expanding the pool of voters and insisting on a more diverse mix on the committee wouldn’t eliminate the possibility of agendas and biases and backroom deals, the ability of a small group of highly driven voters to essentially blackball a candidate would evaporate, if not disappear.