Former Eagles wide receiver Terrell Owens said Thursday he would not attend his own induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, a move described as "unprecedented" by the Hall's president.
"While I am incredibly appreciative of this opportunity, I have made the decision to publicly decline my invitation to attend the induction ceremony in Canton," Owens said. "After visiting Canton earlier this year, I came to the realization that I wish to celebrate what will be one of the most memorable days of my life, elsewhere."
The former wide receiver added: "At a later date, I will announce where and when I will celebrate my induction."
According to the Hall of Fame, Owens is the first player to publicly rebuke his own induction, which will take place Aug. 4.
In February, the Hall of Fame announced Owens would be part of its 2018 class in his third year of eligibility. Owens had spent the previous two years criticizing Hall of Fame voters for his exclusion, calling them a "total joke."
"Obviously Terrell Owens thinks he can have more fun or it could be more important to him to do it on his own, and so we will mail him his gold jacket," Hall of Fame wide receiver and voter James Lofton, who started two games for the Eagles in 1993, said on SiriusXM NFL Radio Thursday. "He's the only one whose ever done this, so there just must have been something stirring inside of him where it just didn't sit right."
ESPN's Jim Trotter, who is on the selection committee, said in 2017 he was uncomfortable with the opposition to Owens from certain members, who seemed intent to punish him for off-the-field reasons.
"In my 11 years on the committee I will say that that's the most uncomfortable I've ever been in a room, listening to the debate on Terrell Owens," Trotter told Richard Deitsch on the Sports Illustrated Media Podcast. "It felt personal to me. It may not have been — I'm not saying it was personal — I'm saying it felt personal to me, and that was very disturbing to me."
Hall of Fame President and CEO David Baker said in a statement that he was disappointed by Owens' decision and regretted that the former wide receiver wouldn't be part of the festivities.
"While unprecedented, the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the nearly 5,000 volunteers and the entire community are committed to celebrating the excellence of the Class of 2018 that will kick off the NFL's 99th season," Baker said. He said the Hall wouldn't comment further on Owens' decision.
Owens, who played for the Eagles, San Francisco 49ers, Dallas Cowboys, Cincinnati Bengals and Buffalo Bills, ended his 15-year playing career second all-time in receiving yards (15,934) and third in touchdown receptions (156).
As my colleague Marc Narducci wrote in February, counting the playoffs, the Eagles were 17-5 when Owens was in the lineup. In 21 regular-season games with the Eagles, he had 124 receptions for 1,963 yards and 20 touchdowns. Most famously, Owens had nine receptions for 122 yards in Super Bowl XXXIX, just six weeks after tearing ligaments in his ankle and breaking his leg.
"There are things he had to fight through to play in that game and even the pain it takes to come back that quick," former Eagles safety Brian Dawkins, who is also part of the 2018 Hall of Fame class, told Narducci. "I am happy for him… I really am and I hope he can take this and enjoy it and, I guess, call off the dogs a little bit."