Owens, who was elected to the Hall of Fame in his third time on the ballot, criticized what he referenced as a "flawed" voting process.
"I want to address the elephant in the room. Many of you may be wondering why we're here instead of Canton," the 44-year-old Owens said on Saturday in front of approximately 3,000 family members, friends and fans inside McKenzie Arena. "There's been a lot of speculation and false reports as to why I chose not to be there. I would like to set the record straight.
"It's not because (of) how many times it took me (to be) voted (into) the Hall. It's about the mere fact that the sports writers are not in alignment with the mission and core values of the Hall of Fame. These writers disregarded the system, the criteria, and bylaws in which guys are inducted and ultimately the true meaning of the Hall of Fame and what it represents."
Owens said he'd like to start a conversation for change with the Hall of Fame voting process. His protest stemmed from his opinion that certain members of the selection committee held off-the-field issues against him.
"I wanted to take a stand so the next guy coming after me will not have to go through what I and others have gone through," Owens said. "Whether it is three years or 45 years, you should get what you rightfully earned. It is not always a popular stance to go against the grain. However, in my heart, I know that this is the right thing to do. They say that I am making the wrong decision, but sometimes, got to do what is deemed wrong or the wrong thing for the right reasons."
Owens was selected for enshrinement in the Class of 2018 along with linebackers Ray Lewis and Brian Urlacher, wide receiver Randy Moss and safety Brian Dawkins. They were joined by Bobby Beathard (contributor) and seniors committee nominees Jerry Kramer and Robert Brazile.
Although Owens gained much notoriety for on-field antics and clashes with teammates and coaches, he put up sparkling numbers during his NFL career.
A six-time Pro Bowl selection, Owens resides second in career receiving yards (15,934), third in receiving touchdowns (153) and eighth in receptions with 1,078. He played for the San Francisco 49ers, Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys, Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals.
Owens played at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga from 1992-95 and had 133 receptions for 2,320 yards and 19 touchdowns. He ranks second all-time in career receiving yards and third in touchdowns.