The National Football League is the major professional Football organization in America. It honors its players with induction into its Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. With no team and the 130th in the nation for population size, the question is asked “Why is the NFL hall of fame in Canton?”
The first players to be payed to play football were William Heffelfinger and Ben “Sport” Donnelly. They were payed by the Allegheny Athletic Association. By the 1920’s great players were payed ever increasing amounts. Some were even “poached” from other teams during the season with a higher salary offer. This led to confusion, bidding wars, and rising costs. Something was needed to be done.
On August 20, 1920, in Canton, Ohio, representatives of the Akron Pros, Canton Bulldogs, Cleveland Indians, and Dayton Triangles, all Ohio based teams, formed the American Professional Football Conference. Later it would change its name to the American Professional Football Association, after adding more teams from across the nation. These teams worked out an agreement on player “poaching” and helped to stabilize costs and talent across the league. On October 3rd the Dayton Triangles defeated Columbus Panhandles in what is considered the first NFL game. On June 24, 1922, in a meeting held in Akron, Ohio, the APFA, became the National Football League. For the next two years the Canton Bulldogs would win the league championship making them the first team in the NFL to do so.
Site of first NFL game, now a baseball diamond
Fast forward 40 years: The NFL had a long history and no Hall of Fame or other museum dedicated to it. Canton took this too heart. The local newspaper, the Canton Repository, pushed for it. They believed the only logical site was in Canton. It was the site of the original meeting. It had a historic powerhouse team. It was in Ohio the state where the first NFL game was played. The city was determined to get the Hall and on January 25, 1961 William E. Umstattd made a formal bid. A few months later the League agreed with what the city and awarded them the Hall. On September 7, 1963 the Hall opened and has been honoring players ever since.