ASHBURN, Va. — Washington Commanders defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio apologized in front of the team Tuesday for controversial comments he made last week, in which he referred to the events at the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, as a “dustup.”
Washington coach Ron Rivera said Del Rio’s apology was “well-received” and added that his coordinator has met with several players to discuss his comments.
“Jack spoke to the team this morning during the team meeting and was very open and contrite and apologized and was open to questions,” Rivera said. “He said, ‘Guys, if you have any questions come see me and let’s talk about that.’ It was good. I’m about reconciliation.”
Rivera also said he fined Del Rio $100,000 last week because his comments had caused a distraction for the team. Del Rio deleted his Twitter account Saturday, which Rivera said he did not ask him to do.
“This is not about the fact he exercised his right to free speech,” Rivera said. “This is about what impacted this football team. I believe in the First Amendment very strongly.
“It’s a very serious question and topic, but at the end of the day, it did impact us. That’s why I did what I did.”
Del Rio used that the “dustup” as he defended a reply he made on Twitter two days earlier. In a reply to Norm Eisen of the Brookings Institute, who promoted a report in advance of the Jan. 6 hearings, Del Rio 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 ???”
Del Rio’s tweets and subsequent explanation did not help a franchise that has stayed in the headlines for much of the past two years for non-football issues. The organization has spent the offseason trying to rebuild its brand, officially changing its name to the Commanders, amid a Congressional investigation into owner Dan Snyder. Congress invited him to testify at a hearing on June 22.
The NFL continues to investigate a sexual misconduct allegation against Snyder, and the attorney generals in Virginia and Washington, DC, are looking into accusations of financial improprieties.
Rivera said he went back and reread the First Amendment and had a copy of it on his office desk. He compared it when he was in Carolina and safety Eric Reid was kneeling during the national anthem, protesting police brutality.
“Eric and I talked about this because I asked him to help me understand,” Rivera said. “He did. He showed me what it was all about. In Jack’s case, same thing. But the thing we have to understand, with rights and freedoms comes tremendous responsibility.”
Rivera said he met with Del Rio on Friday when he told him he was going to be found. They met again Tuesday morning. Rivera said Del Rio was not told that one more strike would cause him to be fired.
“This was not communicated any other way other than Jack and I had a conversation that will remain between the two of us,” Rivera said.
Del Rio also apologized in a statement 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.”