The Washington Commanders have fined defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio $100,000 after his comments earlier in the week that referred to the events of Jan. 6, 2021, at the U.S. Capitol as a “dustup” and compared that day to “riots, looting, burning” during protests in the summer of 2020.
In a statement, Washington coach Ron Rivera said he met with Del Rio on Friday morning to express his disappointment in the coordinator’s comments.
“His comments do not reflect the organization’s views and are extremely hurtful to our great community here in the DMV [D.C.-Maryland-Virginia],” Rivera said. “As we saw last night in the hearings, 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 as a result lives were lost and the Capitol building was damaged.”
The fine money will be donated to the U.S. Capitol Police Memorial Fund, Rivera said. The Capitol riot left more than 100 police officers injured, and five police officers serving at the Capitol on Jan. 6 died in the days and weeks afterward.
Del Rio also will address the team Tuesday, when the Commanders will begin their mandatory three-day minicamp.
On Wednesday, Del Rio defended a reply he made on Twitter two days earlier, when he tweeted, “Would love to understand ‘the whole story’ about why the summer of riots, looting, burning and the destruction of personal property is never discussed but this is??? #CommonSense.”
Del Rio said he felt that there were two standards being applied and that he was just expressing his opinion. But in response to the final question of his news conference, Del Rio called the U.S. Capitol invasion a “dustup,” creating another controversy for the franchise.
He apologized in a statement later Wednesday saying, “Referencing that situation as a dust-up was irresponsible and negligent and I am sorry. 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.”
Rivera said Del Rio has a right to voice his opinion, “However, words have consequences, and his words hurt a lot of people in our community.
“I want to make it clear that our organization will not tolerate any equivalency between those who demanded justice in the wake of George Floyd’s murder and the actions of those on Jan. 6 who sought to topple our government. … I feel strongly that after our conversation this morning, he will have a greater understanding for the impact of his language and the values our team stands for.”
— Washington Commanders (@Commanders) June 10, 2022
On Thursday, the Virginia General Assembly decided to table a vote until 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 already had been momentum toward tabling the vote.
That same day, NAACP president Derrick Johnson called for Del Rio to “resign or be terminated” because of his comments.
“His comments could not have been more offensive and ignorant,” Johnson said in a statement. “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.”
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 was “his guy,” and defensive tackle Jon Allen told NBC Sports Washington, “I don’t care about his opinion 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 an issue with what he said.
The House committee investigating the 2021 insurrection conducted its first public hearing Thursday. The six hearings, which are expected to last until late June, include “previously unseen material” about what the committee discovered in the course of a 10-month investigation.
Beyond the backlash created by Del Rio’s comments, the Commanders are also dealing with congressional and NFL investigations into team owner Dan Snyder over workplace culture and sexual misconduct allegations. These investigations follow a $10 million fine issued by the NFL after it found a toxic workplace culture in the franchise. The league opened another investigation in February after a new allegation of sexual misconduct against Snyder.
The attorneys general in Virginia and Washington, D.C., are also looking into allegations of financial improprieties by the Commanders. The team has denied the charges made by a former employee.
Del Rio caused a stir two years ago with various tweets, telling someone who found out he supported President Donald Trump, “I’m 100% for America, if you’re not you can kiss my A$$.” It did not damage his relationship with players.
“Anything that I ever say or write, I’d be comfortable saying or writing in front of everybody that 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’s some people that get offended by it.”