by Rick Tracewell

One time would-be lawyer makes first “legal” case for Stabler Hall of Fame induction

February 27, 2024
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February 26, 2024

Included in this story is one of the most unique documents pertaining to the NFL, NFL players, or the Pro Football Hall of Fame you will ever encounter. One of the most unique presentations on any topic, to be honest.

Football, Frankly’s own, veteran sportswriter Frank Cooney has been a full member of the selection committee for the Pro Football Hall of Fame since 1992. He was an alternate for several years before that. Needless to say, he has experience with the sometimes political process of helping a former player reach the ultimate peak. The equivalent of an Academy Award for Best Actor, if you will.

Over their membership career, a selector will have multiple opportunities to present a former NFL player–once they reach the level of Finalist. The selector’s job is to then showcase that player’s football career the best they can, often pointing out how that player’s career statistics rank against players already inducted into the Hall of Fame.

The process of presenting a player for Hall of Fame consideration can take years

It can be a very long and arduous process for a representative selector, depending on the player, their NFL career statistics, and whether or not they get enough votes from Hall of Fame committee members to make it to the next round of consideration.

Jan 9, 1977; Pasadena, CA; #12 Ken Stabler after winning Super Bowl XI against the Minnesota Vikings at the Rose Bowl. The Raiders defeated the Vikings 32-14 winning their first Super Bowl championship.
Photo © Copyright 1977 Malcolm Emmons

Cooney first presented former NFL quarterback Ken Stabler for consideration back in 1990; Stabler’s first year of eligibility. Since then, he presented Stabler in 1990, 1991, 2003, and 2015–while he was alive.

Ken Stabler passed away at the age of 69 on July 8, 2015 in Gulfport, Mississippi. He would never be one of the select few to wear the iconic Hall of Fame Gold Jacket. Most consider it a terrible injustice. In my opinion, they are correct.

As of February, 2016–the year after his death–Stabler yet to make it far enough to be close to enshrinement, along with the greatest to play the game, into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

To date Cooney felt he had tried everything he could to properly showcase Stabler’s NFL career. Not only did Frank consider Ken Stabler a Hall of Fame-caliber player, he was also a personal friend for many years.

At that point, if Stabler was to be inducted, it would unfortunately be posthumously.

As it turns out, this next attempt was destined to be different.

Before presenting Ken Stabler for the first time since his untimely death, Cooney contacted Ken Stabler’s daughters (Kendra, Alexa, and Marissa) and life partner Kim Bush about an idea he had for his next presentation. They were wholeheartedly on board. More on that later.

A second chance to “litigate”

After graduating in 1964 from prestigious Balboa High School in his hometown of San Francisco, Frank Cooney began his college career at City College of San Francisco in 1965, eventually transferring to San Francisco State University. His intention at the time was to graduate from San Francisco State, move on to law school, eventually becoming a lawyer.

Frank Cooney in his senior photo from San Francisco’s Balboa High School Class of 1964

While taking classes at SF State, Frank began working as a “copy boy” at the San Francisco Examiner. Six months later, he was promoted to a reporter/editor position. He didn’t leave until 1995 after a 30-year football columnist career where he covered the NFL, college, and high school prep. During his career at the Examiner, Cooney was a beat writer covering first the Oakland Raiders and then the San Francisco 49ers.

Needless to say, he never got that law degree.

Al Davis’ influence pays off

Frank got the clever idea of pitching Ken Stabler’s football career to the selection committee in a way never done before. He created a mock legal document. When you see Cooney’s successful presentation, it appears to be documents from a lawsuit; Ken Stabler’s family and supporters versus then Hall of Fame President David Baker. It looks to have been filed in “The Supreme Court of Canton, Ohio.” Apropo of the situation, for sure.

“I figured that being litigious always worked for Al,” Cooney said recently with a grin. He was, of course, referring to Davis’ long history of filing lawsuits against the NFL to get what he wanted for his Raiders.

Aug 6, 2016; Canton, OH, USA; Grandson Jack Moyes (L) and daughter Kendra Stabler-Moyes (LC) and daughter Marisa Stabler (C) and daughter Alexa Stabler (RC) and grandson Justin Moyes (R) family of former Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler (not pictured) pose with Stabler’s bust during the 2016 NFL Hall of Fame enshrinement at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium.
Photo © Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 6, 2016; Canton, OH, USA; Grandson Jack Moyes (L) and daughter Kendra Stabler-Moyes (LC) and daughter Marisa Stabler (C) and daughter Alexa Stabler (RC) and grandson Justin Moyes (R) family of former Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler (not pictured) pose with Stabler’s bust during the 2016 NFL Hall of Fame enshrinement at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium.
Photo © Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

“There’s a snake in the hall!”

The conclusion of this saga is well-known by now. Football fan favorite Ken “The Snake” Stabler was posthumously inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on August 6, 2016.

Representing Ken Stabler were his three daughters and oldest daughter Kendra’s twin sons Justin and Jack, appropriately known as Stabler’s “Grand Snakes.”

At a moment when a former NFL player typically steps to the podium and addresses the crowd of football fans, reminiscing on a storied career, daughter Kendra leaned into the microphone and loudly exclaimed, “There’s a snake in the hall!” It was perfection.

That statement was met with an explosion of cheering fans. Some with tears in their eyes.

I was lucky enough to be there. It was an honor to celebrate with Stabler’s family, Frank Cooney, and the entire Raiders organization, who threw a fun late-night party after the induction ceremony. Appropriately, there was even a giant ice sculpture of a snake. Kenny would have loved it.

August 6, 2016; Canton, OH; A custom-built ice sculpture of a giant snake on display at the late-night party celebrating Ken Stabler’s induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame earlier in the evening.
Photo by Rick Tracewell

Below–and being made public for the first time–is Frank Cooney’s unique–and very successful–presentation to get Ken Stabler into the Hall of Fame. It is shown here in image form for reasons that will quickly become obvious.

Final note: This presentation was not just a novelty. Be sure to actually read through this historic “case.” It will bring back fond memories for those of us old enough to have watch Ken Stabler play the game. By the conclusion, you’ll know exactly why there’s finally a snake in the hall.


The Case for Ken Stabler’s Selection to the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Presented to Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors on Feb. 6, 2016


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