NFL Coach Jack Del Rio fined, leaves Twitter after minimizing Capitol riots, attacking George Floyd protests
First posted June 22, 2022 2:54pm EDT
Last updated June 22, 2022 2:54pm EDT
All Associated Themes:
- Professional Consequences
- Protest Politics
- Social Media
- Violence / Threats
In a since-deleted tweet, Jack Del Rio, a longtime National Football League (NFL) coach and defensive coordinator for the Washington Commanders, compared the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol rioters to those who protested the police murder of George Floyd, drawing sharp criticism from several NFL players and civil rights organizations.
Jack Del Rio has been employed by the Washington Commanders as defensive coordinator since 2020. He is entering his 24th season as an NFL coach after 11 seasons as an NFL player. He has spent 12 years as a head coach and 11 as an assistant coach.
Ron Rivera, head coach of the Commanders, was hired before the 2020 season. Previously, Rivera spent nine seasons as head coach of the Carolina Panthers, preceded by six seasons as a defensive coordinator with two other NFL teams.
On June 6, 2022, Del Rio replied to a tweet regarding the U.S. House committee investigating the Capitol riot. According to ESPN, the tweet, which was later deleted, read, “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 ???”
Immediate backlash followed. The next day, ProFootballTalk accused Del Rio of “trying to deflect attention with a false equivalence.” Clarence Hill Jr., a reporter for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, called the remarks an “example of the lie that the locker room is devoid of racism.”
Rod Graves, executive director of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, a diversity education organization with close ties to the NFL, said, “Jack Del Rio’s initial comments regarding the protests of supporters for Black Lives Matter go against the values of the Fritz Pollard Alliance and what the NFL should stand for,” The Washington Post reported.
On June 8, Del Rio appeared to double down on his remarks during a Commanders media session. According to NFL.com, after a reporter asked how his players reacted to the tweet, Del Rio reiterated his original position. “People’s livelihoods are being destroyed, businesses are being burned down, no problem. 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,” he said.
In response, Derrick Johnson, director of the NAACP, called for Del Rio to lose his job, The Post reported. “It is time for Jack Del Rio to resign or be terminated,” Johnson said, adding that Del Rio’s “comments could not have been more offensive and ignorant.”
Others condemned Del Rio as well, including CNN medical analyst Dr. Jonathan Reiner, who tweeted that the “dust-up” remark “should lead to his dismissal.”
Quandre Diggs, a player for the Seattle Seahawks, replied to Del Rio’s tweet with a clown emoji, The Spun reported. Former Seahawks player Doug Baldwin called Del Rio “an ignorant, ignorant man.”
Hours after the press conference, Del Rio abruptly changed course, issuing a public apology. NPR reported. Del Rio stated, “Referencing that situation as a dust-up was irresponsible and negligent and I am sorry.” However, he only partially walked back his comments, adding, “I stand by my comments condemning violence in communities across the country.”
Commanders players were generally supportive of Del Rio. According to ESPN, defensive tackle Jonathan Allen said, “Everyone makes mistakes. … Obviously he said something he shouldn’t have said. He owned it to the team like a man and that’s all you can ask for.”
Del Rio fined $100,000 by Commanders, deletes Twitter account
On June 10, Rivera announced he had fined Del Rio $100,000. In a statement, Rivera acknowledged Del Rio’s constitutional right to Free Speech, but wrote “words have consequences and his words hurt a lot of people in our community.”
Former NFL player Ed Reed thought Del Rio’s punishment was insufficient, tweeting, “100,000 is not enough, money ain’t nothing to a person who is recycled through coaching.”
According to ESPN, in a June 14 press conference, Rivera said, “This is not about the fact he exercised his right to free speech. This is about what impacted this football team. I believe in the First Amendment very strongly.”
Del Rio met with the team to apologize. Rivera said Del Rio “was very open, very forthright, very contrite and apologized and opened himself up to questions,” The Boston Globe reported.
NFL.com wrote on June 10 that Del Rio’s Twitter account was no longer viewable and appeared to have been deleted. Three days later, WUSA9 reported the account had been deleted, and that according to Rivera, Del Rio had decided to delete the account on his own accord.
Lawmakers pull out of talks over new Commanders stadium, cite Del Rio controversy
The Commanders have sought to build a new stadium at a site other than FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland. But for the team, Del Rio’s comments added another problem to the long list of public relations issues, including a sexual misconduct investigation and allegations that team owner Daniel Snyder created a toxic work environment.
After Del Rio’s comments, The Post reported that a group of Washington, D.C. council members “would not support bringing the team to the District at the RFK Stadium site.” On June 9, with a narrow majority, seven of the thirteen city council members signed a letter detailing their opposition to the construction of a new football stadium in the city, according to DCist.
A proposed bid to bring the Commanders to northern Virginia suburbs also appeared to have fallen through. Virginia Sen. Majority Leader Richard Saslaw (D) said that the Del Rio episode “obviously was not very helpful, to put it mildly.”
Saslaw also told The Post there would no longer be a vote in 2022 on a proposed stadium plan. Virginia state Sens. Scott A. Surovell (D) and Jeremy S. McPike (D) concurred, saying “they could no longer support a bill authorizing a stadium authority and helping lure the team to Virginia.”