With John Kasay's official retirement as a Panther this week, I've gotten a number of fans asking me about the Panthers' "Hall of Honor" policies.
Kasay, the Panthers' all-time leading scorer by more than 1,000 points and as classy a guy as you will ever find in an NFL locker room, should definitely get into it. Right now, the Panthers' "Hall of Honor" is more like a crawlspace. Mike McCormack, the team's first president and a man instrumental in securing the franchise in the first place, was inducted in 1997. The late Sam Mills was inducted in 1998, only about nine months after he retired (and well before he was diagnosed with cancer).
And that's it.
Fifteen years, no individual inductions. Amazing, isn't it? What kind of hall is that exactly? The team did induct its permanent-seat license holders as a group in 2004.
So when I went to Kasay's "one-day contract" retirement party on Tuesday, I wouldn't have been surprised if owner Jerry Richardson had said "John will be our third individual member of the Hall of Honor."
Instead, a Panther spokesman told me that day something I had never heard before -- that the team has a five-year, post-retirement waiting period for players before they are considered.
Now it's quite possible I have just never asked the question before, because this issue rarely comes up. But certainly Mills only waited nine months -- this five-year policy wasn't in force then. The spokesman said it had been enacted at some point in the mid-2000s to "let the dust settle" before such a decision is made.
And who makes the decision? It is basically the 76-year-old Richardson, although he does have input from others. Richardson, incidentally, should be inducted into the hall himself, of course. But I would imagine that induction will be posthumous, because who would want to vote yourself into a hall you control? That will likely be left to the next team owner to do, so that induction hopefully is many years away.
I don't have a problem with the five-year rule. Many sports hall of fames have similar criteria. I do wonder why such a rule is not included in the Panthers' official statement about the hall of honor in their media guide. It should be.
Kasay, for his part, said he had never thought about the hall, didn't play for those kind of honors, didn't know whether he would want a statue of himself outside the stadium and had never had a discussion about it with Richardson one way or the other. According to the rule, Kasay wouldn't be eligible until 2018, since he didn't officially "retire" until this week even though he did not play last year.
So there's your answer, fans. If Kasay goes in, unless the Panthers change their five-year rule (and of course, they could -- it only takes one man to change it) it won't be until about the time the Panthers and the city are again doing that weird mating dance about another "tether" that will keep the team permanently in Charlotte.
Other players could be (and likely have been) considered right now -- Mike Minter, Wesley Walls and Mike Rucker for instance -- while Jake Delhomme and Muhsin Muhammad are still technically ineligible for consideration. Steve Smith should be a shoo-in once he retires but, again, his actual induction will be way down the road. Julius Peppers would be another possibility, but given his acrimonious departure for Chicago would seem less likely.
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