Washington Football Team president Jason Wright explained the team’s late-notice announcement of their decision to retire Sean Taylor’s jersey.
Once again, Washington Football Team executives are embroiled in scandal — or, rather, more scandalous behavior at the top is being exposed.
WFT management has taken measures to make their franchise seem less racist after their offensive name was changed, and they’ve tried to seem less sexist when they hired Dan Snyder’s wife Tanya as the team’s co-CEO.
Now, when it’s been revealed that former general manager Bruce Allen was involved in racist, sexist, and homophobic email exchanges, the team decided to divert attention to a monumental decision: retiring the jersey of late Washington safety Sean Taylor.
There will never be another 21 💛
On Sunday, we will officially retire Sean Taylor’s number
— Washington Football Team (@WashingtonNFL) October 14, 2021
In their press release, the team explains that they will “honor nearly 100 alumni at FedExField, while also paying a special tribute to Washington alumnus and football legend, Sean Taylor.”
Taylor will be represented on-field by his family during the ceremony. This will be the third jersey the Washington franchise retires in its 89-year history.
The last-minute announcement of honoring one of Washington’s greatest players wasn’t received well by football fans throughout the league.
Giving fans zero notice for the retirement of Sean Taylor’s number is both stupid and insulting.
— Burgundy Blog (@BurgundyBlog) October 14, 2021
They announced Bobby Mitchell’s jersey retirement in June for a September ceremony.
They announced Sean Taylor’s jersey retirement on Oct. 14th for an Oct. 17th ceremony.
Forgive my skepticism.
— JP Finlay (@JPFinlayNBCS) October 14, 2021
Obviously the first thing that comes to minds is the suspicious, convenient timing of it. And it’s a shame it’ll somewhat take away from the moment. That’s the Dan Snyder playbook, always has been, just smoke and mirrors. https://t.co/aA411G96na
— Nate (@BarstoolNate) October 14, 2021
If you had asked me yesterday, I would have put “Sean Taylor jersey retirement” very high on the list of unbotchable events.
— michael phillips (@michaelpRTD) October 14, 2021
I think it’s clear that, like many other past players and countless countless fans, Sean Taylor deserved and deserves better than this organization
— Pete Hailey (@PeteHaileyNBCS) October 14, 2021
WFT president Jason Wright, who himself was brought on to steer the team in a better direction after a July 2020 report that detailed sexual harassment of WFT cheerleaders by team employees, issued a swift apology about the abrupt announcement.
We wanted to do something long overdue by retiring players’ numbers. Months ago we planned for Bobby Mitchell and Sean Taylor to be the first two. Seeing the reaction, I’m very sorry that the short notice does not properly reflect the impact Sean had. President’s Brief to come…
— Jason Wright (@whoisjwright) October 14, 2021
Washington Football Team’s last-minute attempt to honor the legendary Sean Taylor comes across as callous PR move
Wright is in a difficult position in all of this: he is the NFL’s first Black team president, who was brought on last season to lead the franchise in a new direction.
The team now has a Black president in Wright and a Latino head coach in Ron Rivera, but the team is now suffering from the legacy left behind by Bruce Allen. Jon Gruden, the disgraced former coach of the Las Vegas Raiders, only had his emails read during an NFL investigation into misconduct by Allen and other Washington executives. The investigation is a result of the team’s racist and sexist misconduct exposed in 2020.
The collateral in this PR disaster has become Taylor, a Washington free safety who remains prominent in collective memory. Drafted by Washington in the first round of the 2004 NFL Draft, Taylor was a truly extraordinary football player who played free safety in Washington for four seasons.
Taylor earned the nickname “Meast” for his hard-hitting style, a level of play which earned him a trip to the Pro Bowl in 2006.
On November 27, Taylor was shot during a botched burglary in his Miami home. Taylor was resting at home due to a knee injury instead of attending the Washington game in Tampa Bay, which is what the burglars anticipated. He was shot while defending his family from the threat and died in the hospital the next day.
To this day, Taylor remains one of the most beloved Washington players in team history. It’s likely why Washington would prefer to focus on honoring him, and it’s also why fans have been so protective of preserving — and genuinely honoring — his legacy.