Jack Del Rio, the defensive coordinator for the NFL’s Washington Commanders, has apologized to his team for his inflammatory comments made about the January 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol riots and the protests held in the wake of George Floyd’s death. Head coach Ron Rivera confirmed the internal meeting this past Tuesday. It also comes six days after Rivera fined Del Rio $100,000 for the remarks. The money will reportedly be donated to the U.S. Capitol Police Memorial Fund.
“[Del Rio] was very open, very forthright, very contrite and apologized and opened himself up to questions or opportunities for any players to come in and meet with him,” Rivera said to reporters before the Commanders’ opening minicamp practice. “He’s already met with some of our players and talked to them about what was said. I’ve been told those meetings went very, very well. And so I’m very pleased with that.”
Last Monday, Del Rio wrote the following tweet about those Congressional hearings: “Would love to understand ‘the whole story’ about why the summer of riots, looting, burning and the destruction of personal property is never discussed but this is ???”
But it was his June 8 remarks that really left many people disgusted. Del Rio met with the press after an offseason practice two days later, and he equated the public outcry over Floyd’s death and the Black Lives Matter protests to the insurrection at Capitol.
“People’s livelihoods are being destroyed, businesses are being burned down, no problem,” he told reporters. “And then we have a dust-up at the Capitol, nothing burned down, and we’re going to make that a major deal. I just think it’s kind of two standards.” This was the day prior to a House committee beginning its investigation on the attacks.
The resultant backlash prompted Del Rio to issue a follow-up statement. He apologized that very afternoon and said it was “irresponsible and negligent” to call the Capitol riots a “dust-up.” However, he made sure to defend the remainder of his stance. “I stand by my comments condemning violence in communities across the country,” the statement continued. “I say that while also expressing my support as an American citizen for peaceful protest in our country.”
NAACP President Derrick Johnson issued a statement calling for Del Rio to quit his post or be canned the next day. “Downplaying the insurrection by comparing it to nationwide protests, which were in response to a public lynching, is twisted,” it read. “You can’t coach a majority Black team while turning your back on the Black community. It’s time for you to pack up and step off the field.”
Del Rio has since deleted his Twitter account, and the Commanders have since made no official comment on their coordinator’s disappearance from social media. And the surrounding controversy may have jeopardized the organization’s hopes for a new stadium in the DMV area, short for “Delaware-Maryland-Virginia.”
But Coach Rivera sounds ready to move on. He also believes that the fine and internal team discussions reflect where the team stands with Del Rio and the current political state of affairs.
“I’m about reconciliation,” Rivera said two days ago. “We have to understand that when we do things like this, it impacts the community as well. We got to make sure the community understands that we understand and we get it. That’s important. So this was really about taking accountability and holding ourselves accountable, and then going forward and trying to reconcile with things.”