The Washington Commanders have fined defense coordinator Jack Del Rio $100,000 after he commented earlier in the week on the events of Jan. 6, 2021 at the US Capitol as “puffs of dust,” describing the day as “rioting, looting and ‘arson’ at protests in the summer of 2020.
In a statement, Washington coach Ron Rivera said he met with Del Rio Friday morning to express his disappointment at the coordinator’s comments.
“His comments do not reflect the views of the organization and are extremely hurtful to our amazing community here at DMV [D.C.-Maryland-Virginia]’ Rivera said. “As we saw at the hearings last night, what happened on the Capitol on January 6, 2021 was an act of domestic terrorism. A group of citizens attempted to overturn the results of a free and fair election, and the result was deaths and damage to the Capitol.”
The fine will be donated to the US Capitol Police Memorial Fund, Rivera said. More than 100 police officers were injured in the Capitol riot, and five police officers serving at the Capitol on January 6 died in the days and weeks that followed.
Del Rio will also address the team on Tuesday when the commanders begin their mandatory three-day mini-camp.
On Wednesday, Del Rio defended a response he made on Twitter two days earlier when he tweeted, “I’d like to understand ‘the whole story’ of why the summer of rioting, looting, arson and destruction of personal property never ended is discussed, but that is??? #CommonSense.”
Del Rio said he felt two standards were being applied and that he was just voicing his opinion. But in response to the final question of his press conference, Del Rio called the invasion of the US Capitol a “dustup,” sparking another controversy for the franchise.
He apologized in a statement later on Wednesday, saying: “It was irresponsible and negligent to describe this situation as dust and I am sorry. I stand by my comments condemning violence in communities across the country. I say this while also expressing my support, as an American citizen, for peaceful protest in our country.”
Rivera said Del Rio has every right to speak his mind: “However, words have consequences, and his words hurt many people in our community.
“I want to be clear that our organization will not tolerate equivalence between those who called for justice after the murder of George Floyd and the actions on January 6th of those who attempted to overthrow our government. …I feel that strongly. After our conversation this morning, he will have a better understanding of the impact of his language and the values our team stands for.”
— Washington Commanders (@Commanders) June 10, 2022
On Thursday, Virginia’s General Assembly decided to vote by next year on whether to help fund a Commanders Stadium in the state. Some state senators said Del Rio’s comments made that decision easier, although there was already momentum for filing the vote.
On the same day, NAACP President Derrick Johnson asked Del Rio to “resign or be terminated” over his comments.
“His comments could not have been more offensive and ignorant,” Johnson said in a statement. “The January 6 uprising – an attempted coup – was anything but a cloud of dust. Every day we learn more and more about how close our democracy came to autocracy. To downplay the uprising 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 your bags and step off the field.
However, sources close to some defensive players said they didn’t think there would be a division. A source close to defensive end Chase Young said Del Rio is “his man,” and defensive tackle Jon Allen told NBC Sports Washington, “I don’t care what he thinks as long as he shows up every day and works hard. That’s what I want from my defensive coordinator.”
Del Rio said Wednesday that he would meet with any player who had a problem with what he said.
The House committee investigating the 2021 insurgency held its first public hearing on Thursday. The six hearings, expected to last until the end of June, will include “previously unseen material” on what the committee has uncovered over the course of a ten-month investigation.
Aside from the backlash sparked by Del Rio’s comments, the commanders are also dealing with Congressional and NFL investigations into team owner Dan Snyder over allegations of work culture and sexual misconduct. These investigations follow a $10 million fine imposed by the NFL after it found a toxic work culture in the franchise. The league opened another investigation in February following a new allegation of sexual misconduct against Snyder.
Attorneys general in Virginia and Washington, DC are also investigating allegations of financial impropriety by the commanders. The team has denied the allegations made by a former employee.
Del Rio caused quite a stir with various tweets two years ago when he told someone who found out he supports President Donald Trump, “I’m 100% pro-America, if you’re not you can kiss my A$$.” ‘ It didn’t hurt his relationship with the players.
“Anything I ever say or write, I would like to say or write in front of everyone I work with – players and coaches,” Del Rio said Wednesday. “I express myself as an American; we have that ability. I love this country and I believe what I believe and I’ve said what I want to say. Every now and then there are some people who feel offended by it. “