Three Questions with Jim Porter
Ohio Life

Talking Football with Hall of Fame President Jim Porter

For this Canton native, leading the Pro Football Hall of Fame is a dream job. We talked with him about the institution and its role in preserving the legacy of the game.

Pro Football Hall of Fame president Jim Porter is just a year younger than the institution he leads, and as a Canton native, he’s been around it all his life. Porter, who previously spent 33 years at The Canton Repository newspaper, including eight as publisher and CEO, was a former member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame board before becoming the institution’s chief marketing and communications officer in 2020.

In October 2021, he became president of the Pro Football Hall of Fame following the retirement of David Baker, who had led the hall since 2014. For Porter, the opportunity is the definition of dream job.

“I never said, ‘I’m going to be president of the Hall of Fame,’ because I didn’t think it would even be a possibility,” he says. “There were kids who counted down the days until Christmas or summer break ... I counted down the days until enshrinement.”

We talked with Porter about what the institution means to him, appealing to a new generation of fans and the passion for the work that goes into telling the game’s story. 

What does this opportunity mean to you as a Canton native?
Growing up, I would sit on the wall, watch the [enshrinement] speeches, and then peek into the gates of the stadium. I know what the Hall is. I know what it means to Canton, I know what it means to the region, and I know what it means to the fan base. Two-hundred-and-eight-million people watched the last Super Bowl, and [10 million] people watched the draft, and we have to meet those expectations. 

What’s the biggest challenge for the Hall of Fame right now?
We have a study being done right now about what the hall needs to do to keep up with technology, which has just changed by leaps and bounds so quickly. How do we make the Hall relevant to all ages? I mean, I think the leather helmets on display are really cool, but how do you relate to what kids want to see? We’re here to tell the story of the Hall of Famers, but we’re also here to preserve and tell the story of the game of football.

What’s one thing that visitors might not know about the Hall of Fame?
A lot of people want to work at the Hall of Fame because it’s cool, but the people here are passionate, knowledgeable and really respect the game. The team here is unbelievable. I’ve also gotten to know the [Hall of Fame] selectors, and how personally they take the process. They really want to get it right. Those 49 people literally change people’s lives. … I’ll go into the [Hall of Fame Gallery] room a few times each week, and people whisper like they’re in church. There’s a reverence there. 

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