What Others Say
---- — With great fanfare in 2011, the Pro Football Hall of Fame celebrated Eagle-Tribune photographer Mary Schwalm and her photograph of the New England Patriots’ Aaron Hernandez high-stepping into the end zone.
Last week, the 43rd annual Photo of the Year was quietly taken down, tucked in some dark corner of the Hall of Fame basement.
No one thought to call Schwalm, the first and only woman to win the prize.
She found out about it in a message from a cousin, who had seen the news online.
“Obviously, I’m disappointed,” Schwalm said of the photograph’s removal. “I guess I understand why they did it, but I hope, in removing the photograph, they will acknowledge that I’m the first woman to win the Dave Boss Award of Excellence.”
There was a lot of acknowledgement when Schwalm won. She was awarded a cash prize and an all-expense-paid trip for two to Canton, Ohio, for Enshrinement Weekend.
The photo of Hernandez is called “Thrill and Agony.” Behind Hernandez celebrating a touchdown is Green Bay Packer Sam Shields, bent over in defeat.
Hernandez has little to celebrate these days, having been charged with the murder of Odin Lloyd. He hasn’t been convicted of a crime, but it’s not looking good for him.
The Patriots and nearly everyone else in the National Football League have distanced themselves from the tight end.
He was released by the Patriots even before he was arrested. The Patriots allowed fans who had purchased Hernandez jerseys to trade them in for one of a player not incarcerated.
“In the spirit of good taste, we thought we’d take it down,” a spokesman for the Hall of Fame said of the photograph last week, according to The Cleveland Plain Dealer.
It would have been in good taste for Hall of Fame officials to reach out to Schwalm before they did so. The prize and the honors that accompanied it were for the photograph, not the subject.
“The Dave Boss Award has always been about the photographer and the photo,” Schwalm said. “Anyone who shoots football knows it could easily have been anyone in that photograph.”
Well, it wasn’t anyone and Hall of Fame officials bowed to what they described as “several requests” to remove the photo from display.
Schwalm wasn’t honored for her football abilities. Rather, the award applauds her prowess with the camera.
In fact, this year she received an Honorable Mention for her photo of iconic Patriots’ coach Bill Belichick. Shot from behind and clad in the ever-present hoodie, Belichick is instantly recognizable, despite the fact the photo doesn’t reveal an inch of his face.
Schwalm is gracious in her understanding of the decision, but she still wishes someone had reached out to her.
She also hopes the Hall of Fame will figure out a way to honor her and her award-winning photograph, perhaps with a plaque bearing her name and an explanation for why the photo was removed.
It’s the least they can do.