By STEPHEN WHYNO, AP sports reporter
ASHBURN, Va. (AP) — NFL Washington commanders once again find themselves at the center of an off-field problem that has nothing to do with football, dealing another blow to their rapidly declining reputation as one of the most dysfunctional franchises in professional sports.
The fallout from the latest faux pas requiring an explanation or an apology – with assistant coach Jack Del Rio comparing the protests following the police killing of George Floyd to the January 6 insurrection at the US Capitol – could have far-reaching consequences beyond the bedroom locker.
This immediately scuttled the team’s best opportunity to strike a deal to build a new stadium, which was the most significant long-term project facing owner Dan Snyder amid a long playoff winless drought. and a lack of fan enthusiasm. Several Virginia lawmakers pointed to Del Rio’s comments as another reason not to vote on legislation drawing commanders into the state, and on Thursday the bill, already on its last legs, was voted down for the rest of the year. ‘year.
In a brief interview with The Associated Press, Democratic Virginia Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw cited various investigations and “other questions that need to be answered.”
The list of embarrassing and disturbing issues facing the once-legendary franchise continues to grow.
The Commanders, who changed their name after dropping their longtime name in 2020 amid national judgment on racism in the United States and played the last two seasons as the Washington football team, made the been investigated about workplace culture since several employees detailed instances of sexual harassment. .
Attorney Beth Wilkinson’s investigation, launched first by the team and taken up by the NFL, uncovered a toxic work culture and resulted in a $10 million fine. When the league failed to release a written report on the investigation last summer, Congress launched its own review into the sexual harassment allegations, which extended to potential financial improprieties based on the testimony of a former employee.
As the Federal Trade Commission has been made aware of the possibility of financial laws being violated — which the team strongly denies — and Virginia and District of Columbia officials have also begun to look into the matter, Congress has again turned its attention to workplace culture. Just last week, the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform invited Snyder and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to appear at a June 22 hearing.
A spokeswoman said the committee had been in communication with the team and the league about the request, which has now been pushed into the background by comments Del Rio made this week on the brink of the opening of public hearings into the riot at the United States Capitol on January 21. 6, 2021.
“People’s livelihoods are destroyed, businesses are burned down, no problem,” Del Rio said Wednesday when asked about a social media post he posted comparing the protests in the summer 2020 to the uprising. “And then we have a dust in the Capitol, nothing burned, and we’re going to make it a major deal. I just think it’s kind of two standards.
He apologized hours later in a Twitter post, saying it was “irresponsible and negligent” to call January 6 “dust”. Del Rio added that he stood by comments “condemning violence in communities across the country.”
The NAACP president called for Del Rio’s termination on Thursday, saying the comments couldn’t have been more offensive and ignorant.
“To downplay the insurgency by comparing it to nationwide protests, which were in response to a public lynching, is twisted,” Derrick Johnson said in a statement. “You can’t coach a majority black team while turning your back on the black community.”
There is no indication that Del Rio’s job is in jeopardy as a result of his comments.
Coach Ron Rivera dismissed any notion that Del Rio’s opinions would become an issue around the commanders, whose roster is made up of a majority of black players. Del Rio’s comments did not spark public outrage from Commanders players or the league.
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the league had no comment on Del Rio when contacted by The Associated Press on Thursday.
Jonathan Allen, a black crew chief, told NBC Sports Washington, “I don’t care what his opinion is. As long as he shows up every day and works hard, that’s what I expect from my defensive coordinator.
The potential impact of Del Rio’s remarks about a stadium not opening until he, Rivera and nearly every current player are on the team could extend beyond Virginia. It already seemed unlikely that the team would return to its former home at the RFK Stadium site in the District of Columbia, and several city council members on Thursday made it clear “unequivocally” that they would not support the use of this land for a new installation of commanders. .
DC City Council Speaker Phil Mendelson, who was not one of seven members to send a letter to Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton about RFK, said Del Rio’s comment was inappropriate and that it bore witness to the revisionist history of the events of January 6th.
“It’s part of a lot of controversies,” Mendelson told the AP. He added that his biggest problem with the team is the lack of a written report of the workplace misconduct investigation.
It remains an open issue, with no indication from the league that a report will ever be released. But Del Rio’s comments are indicative of Washington’s team culture, according to an attorney who represents more than 40 former employees.
“Jack Del Rio’s ignorant remarks and team management’s failure to immediately indicate that his comments were inappropriate and offensive is just further evidence of the failure of this organization to evolve or grow.” , said attorney Lisa Banks. “It remains a dysfunctional and toxic environment with no conscience or accountability, despite all claims to the contrary.”
AP writer Sarah Rankin in Richmond, Va., and AP Pro Football writer Rob Maaddi contributed to this report.
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