In what many fans viewed as a bittersweet moment, the Washington Football Team honored the memory of slain star Sean Taylor on Sunday.
The free safety, regarded as one of the hardest-hitting defensive backs in the team’s history, died in a November 2007 home invasion just three years into a NFL career that sparkled from his rookie year.
He died at 24 with two Pro Bowl appearances under his belt, quickly earned based on a reputation as a speedy, fearsome player. His performance generated a hearty following among fans, many of whom sported his number 21 on towels, bumper stickers and apparel long after his abrupt departure.
While jersey retirement honors at halftime of the WFT game with the Kansas City Chiefs drew cheers as his family gathered at a midfield ceremony, the team’s action seemed hastily arranged in the wake of an off-field scandal amid workplace misconduct allegations in a suit that the organization fostered a racist, sexist culture.
A number of emails from that investigation leaked, leading to Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden resigning from his position after it was revealed email between him and former Washington general manager Bruce Allen contained racial and sexual epithets and questionable references. Gruden’s emails were the only ones to leak. No correspondence from Washington owner Dan Snyder, or any other high-ranking NFL executives, has been revealed publicly.
The fans voiced outrage at the jersey retirement ceremony that was pulled together 72 hours before game day and staged in a half-empty stadium.