Thursday Oct 21, 2021

Washington Football Team to retire Sean Taylor’s number in disgraceful PR move

Washington Football Team to retire Sean Taylor’s number in disgraceful PR move

Washington Football Team to retire Sean Taylor’s number in disgraceful PR move

Information about Washington Football Team to retire Sean Taylor’s number in disgraceful PR move

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And they’re doing it on three days’ notice.

And they’re doing it on three days’ notice.
Illustration: Getty Images

The New York Giants announced in September that they will retire Michael Strahan’s number on November 28. Earlier this month, when Pau Gasol retired, Lakers owner Jeanie Buss immediately said that his No. 16 would go to the rafters. The Oakland A’s have been planning Dave Stewart’s jersey retirement ceremony since 2019, and it’ll finally happen on May 23 of next year.

The Washington Football Team is retiring No. 21 for Sean Taylor this Sunday, and the team announced it on Thursday.

Taylor was murdered in 2007 at the age of 24, just as he was coming into the prime of a potential Hall of Fame career. His memory is sacred to Washington fans, and his legacy is so strong that Clinton Portis said when the team decided to remove Taylor’s locker, “my love for the game disappeared,” leading him to hang up his cleats.

Nobody has worn 21 for Washington since Taylor’s death. The number retirement should have been made official long ago.

And they’re doing it on three days’ notice.

Taken alone, this is a level of franchise incompetence that would make you question the decision-makers from Dan Snyder all the way down. This is an event that Washington fans will want to attend, that they’ve been waiting to see for years, to celebrate the greatness and mourn the loss, collectively, that’s been a heavy weight on the heart for more than a decade.

And they’re doing it on three days’ notice.

Of course, the decision to retire Taylor’s number now isn’t taken alone. It’s taken amid 650,000 emails having been reviewed as part of an investigation into how Snyder runs his franchise. And so far, the only emails that the public has seen from that investigation are the ones that cost Jon Gruden his job — as coach of an entirely different team.

Snyder and his front office henchmen clearly have been looking around for some kind of BREAK GLASS IN CASE OF EMERGENCY box to smash open, not only because of the emails, but in the wake of having their practice facility raided by federal authorities as part of a criminal probe of their head athletic trainer.

They found Taylor’s No. 21 jersey in that emergency box.

It would have been plenty cynical to make the announcement this week that the organization was planning to retire Taylor’s number next season. Or even later this season, like, say, Dec. 12 when the Cowboys come to the nation’s capital. But that wasn’t beyond the pale enough for this rotten franchise.

They’re doing it on three days’ notice.

And the franchise certainly is rotten. They may have changed the team’s nickname from a racial slur, but they also still are the team that was the last in the NFL to integrate, then held off on retiring Bobby Mitchell’s number until after he died — and even then, only as a publicity stunt because public pressure forced them to, renamed a stadium seating level that previously honored George Preston Marshall, the team owner who kept Washington’s football team all-white until 1962, when the federal government presented an ultimatum to either integrate or lose their D.C. lease.

Mitchell was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1983, meaning that Washington could have given him his due at any point in the remaining 37 years of his life. They didn’t. Snyder didn’t. It only happened as a way of trying to change the narrative from the team’s continued racism — at that point, even though they were renaming the Marshall seating level for Mitchell, they were still trying to keep the old nickname.

This is the same playbook, using Taylor to try to run away from the 650,000 emails. It obviously won’t work, because after Sunday, those emails are still going to be around on Monday. So all that Snyder and his underlings are doing is to wield the legacy of a late and beloved Black man as an ineffective PR tool.

It’s distasteful, disgraceful, and deeply emblematic of Snyder’s ownership of the team. Taylor’s memory deserves better, and, fortunately, it’s not a capricious billionaire who gets to decide when and how Taylor’s fans and former teammates honor him — because they already have for years, and will continue to do so long after the embarrassment of Snyder’s reign is gone.

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