Jack Del Rio’s recent tweets and ensuing comments elicited strong reaction from those affiliated with the NFL and now a prominent civil rights organization.
“It is time for Jack Del Rio to resign or be terminated,” Johnson said in a statement Thursday. “His comments could not have been more offensive and ignorant. The January 6th insurrection — an attempted coup — was far from a ‘dust-up.’ Each day we learn more and more on just how close our democracy came to autocracy. Downplaying the insurrection by comparing it to nationwide protests, which were in response to a public lynching, is twisted. 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’s comments also were condemned by the Fritz Pollard Alliance, a diversity group that works closely with the NFL on its minority hiring.
“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,” Rod Graves, the group’s executive director, said in a statement. “The FPA has been working with the NFL to bring about better opportunities and an equitable system for all. The first step to creating progress is to recognize that we’ve been operating on an un-level playing field.”
The Commanders and the NFL did not respond to requests for comment about Johnson’s statement.
On Monday, Del Rio responded to a tweet by Norm Eisen of the Brookings Institution research group, in which Eisen promoted a report ahead of the Jan. 6 committee’s hearings, scheduled to begin Thursday evening.
Del Rio tweeted: “Would love to understand ‘the whole story’ about why the summer of riots, looting, burning and destruction of personal property is never discussed but this is ??? #CommonSense.”
When asked about his tweet Wednesday following an offseason practice session, Del Rio referred to the Capitol attack as “a dust-up,” raising the ire of current and former players, fans and even elected officials.
“Really, let’s get right down to it. What did I ask? A simple question,” Del Rio told reporters Wednesday. “Why are we not looking into those things if we’re going to talk about it? Why are we not looking into those things? Because it’s kind of hard for me to say — I can realistically look at it, I see the images on TV, 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 not going to talk about — we’re going to make that a major deal.”
The team did not address the matter Wednesday, and Commanders Coach Ron Rivera declined to discuss Del Rio’s tweets with reporters earlier in the day. Rivera said he does “not necessarily” worry Del Rio’s tweets would affect the locker room and if there was something to address, he said it would be treated as a “private matter.”
Del Rio issued a statement on Twitter on Wednesday evening and apologized for his comments, stating that his reference of the Jan. 6 attack as a dust-up was “irresponsible and negligent.” He added: “I stand by my comments condemning violence in communities across the country. I say that while also expressing my support as an American citizen for peaceful protest in our country.”
But by then, two Virginia state senators — Scott A. Surovell (D-Fairfax) and Jeremy S. McPike (D-Prince William) — said they could no longer support a bill authorizing a stadium authority and helping lure the team to Virginia. Surovell tweeted that the NFL’s “indifference & intolerance” to Del Rio’s comments reflects its “hypocrisy” and “makes clear to me that we won’t be seeing any more votes on stadium bills this year.”
A group of D.C. legislators said Thursday they would not support bringing the team to the District at the RFK Stadium site, and Virginia Senate Majority Leader Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax) pulled the plug on the Commonwealth’s efforts, saying there would be no vote on a stadium bill this year.
“This obviously was not very helpful, to put it mildly,” Saslaw told The Post, referring to Del Rio’s comments, “but there’s so many other things out there. There were just so many things out there that a lot of people are saying, ‘Saslaw, this thing needs to wait.’ ”
Over the past two years, the Commanders have been embroiled in a slew of controversies stemming from allegations of sexual harassment and assault by former male employees, claims of financial impropriety, an investigation of the possible illegal disbursement of prescription painkillers by its former athletic trainer, an ongoing probe by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform on the team’s workplace culture and the NFL’s handling of it, as well as another pending investigation on recent claims of sexual harassment against Snyder.
The team also has struggled to fill the stands at FedEx Field, last year ranking among the NFL’s worst in attendance.