The Washington Football Team made the last-minute decision to retire Sean Taylor's jersey number during halftime of their game this past Sunday against the Kansa City Chiefs. Unfortunately for Taylor and his family, Washington's decision and execution of what should have been a memorable day was more disrespectful than anything.
The Washington Football Team has been constantly in the news within the last year as the NFL continues its investigation into allegations from fifteen former female employees that they experienced constant sexual harassment from the team’s staff over the span of eighteen years. The NFL began its investigation in August of 2020 and fined Washington ten million dollars for their “highly unprofessional" work environment, "particularly for women" (CBS Sports). Since July, there had not been any new developments in the investigation that were released to the public. That was until earlier last week. The Wall Street Journal reported on October 8th that during the investigation the NFL reviewed over six-hundred and fifty thousand emails from Washington’s staff. Included in those emails were conversations between now-former Raiders Head Coach Jon Gruden and former executive Bruce Allen. In one email Gruden used a racial trope and insulted NFLPA Executive Director, DeMaurice Smith. Three days after The Wall Street Journal’s initial report, The New York Times reported that the emails exposed repetitive misogynistic and homophobic language by Jon Gruden dating to 2010. The “language” included Jon’s opinion on openly gay players in the NFL in which Gruden dared to claim that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell pressured former Rams coach Jeff Fisher into drafting the first openly gay player, Michael Sam. The offensive language Gruden used continued as he denounced the idea of female referees in the NFL and exchanged pictures of former Washington cheerleaders topless. Just hours after these reports were released, Gruden announced his resignation as the Raiders Head Coach.
Just days after the resignation of Jon Gruden and the reports of the hundreds of thousands of emails the NFL reviewed in the investigation into the Washington Football Team, WFT President Jason Wright announced the team would be retiring Sean Taylor’s legendary number twenty-one during their home matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs. Sean Taylor was drafted by Washington in 2004 and spent every season of his short career in Washington. Taylor instantly became a fan favorite in Washington and was an incredible player from the start of his NFL career. Taylor was tragically killed in 2007 while protecting his family from burglars who entered his home. Just four seasons after Washington drafted him. Since Taylor’s death, his memory has continued to live on through fans, former players, coaches, and other members of the NFL. However, it took Washington fourteen years to decide to finally retire Taylor’s jersey number, although Taylor was introduced into the team’s ring of fame in 2008. Around a year after his death. And they couldn’t have chosen a worse time to honor one of their own. Sean Taylor’s life as well as his legacy meant more to the fans of Washington, the NFL, and Sean Taylor’s family than to be used as a PR stunt and distraction from the current dumpster fire that is the Washington Football Team. To make matters worse, the announcement came just three days before Washington was set to retire Taylor’s number, just three days. Unfortunately, the situation continues to get worse. Washington chose to also re-name a road near the stadium after Sean Taylor to honor him. Washington executed even this horrendously, as Taylor’s family took a picture in front of the new road sign honoring Sean Taylor. Directly behind his family and the new road sign dedicated in Taylor’s memory, stood multiple porta-potties, unintentionally reiterating how much of a shit show the Washington Football Team is. Furthermore, Washington painted Taylor’s number twenty-one on the sideline for Sunday’s game. In the same area that VIP guests stand. Multiple fans were seen standing on top of the painted number, and Jackson Mahomes, brother of Kansas City Quarterback Patrick Mahomes, even went as far as dancing for TikTok on top of the sideline number. Further expressing the lack of respect Washington’s organization showed towards Taylor and his family. Finally, Washington held Taylor’s jersey retirement ceremony during halftime of the game, allowing for under fifteen minutes to honor Sean Taylor’s legacy. As a result of the ceremony being during halftime, no speeches or recognition were involved in the ceremony. Meaning none of Sean Taylor’s family, friends, former teammates, or coaches were able to express how important Sean Taylor was as a person and a football player. Not even pre-recorded interviews were played during the game or ceremony.
Washington’s decision to retire Sean Taylor’s number was a poorly organized and executed, last minute, PR stunt. Washington team President Jason Wright’s last-minute decision to announce the retirement of Taylor’s number with the current circumstances around his organization was not only disrespectful but also disgusting. Wright, along with the other WFT executives should be ashamed of themselves for the timing of the decision, but they should be even more ashamed of themselves for the porous ‘ceremony’ that was put together and the blatant disrespect that they showed Sean Taylor and his family. I guess nobody should have expected anything better from a franchise that’s been consistently disrespectful towards their own for nearly twenty years. This was simply another poor decision from this poverty franchise.