“Coach Del Rio did apologize for his comments on Wednesday and he understands the distinction between the events of that dark day and peaceful protests, which are a hallmark of our democracy,” Rivera’s statement read. “He does have the right to voice his opinion of him as a citizen of the United States and it most certainly is his constitutional right of him to do so. However, his 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 equivalence 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.”
The fine will be donated to the US Capitol Police Memorial Fund, which supports families of officers hurt or killed in the line of duty.
Del Rio, who has often been vocal about his political beliefs and ideologies on social media, responded to a Monday tweet in which he questioned “the whole story” of why the “summer of riots, looting, burning and destruction of personal property is never discussed” but the Jan. 6 attack is.
When asked about the tweet by reporters Wednesday following a team practice, he doubled down, saying: “Why are we not looking into those things? Because it’s kind of hard for me to say — I can realistically look at it, I see the images on TV, people’s livelihoods are being destroyed, businesses are being burned down. No problem. And then we have a dust-up at the Capitol. Nothing burned down, and we’re not going to talk about — we’re going to make that a better deal.”
Speaking to reporters earlier Wednesday, Rivera initially declined to discuss Del Rio’s tweets but said he was “not necessarily” worried they would affect the locker room. The team did not respond to requests for comments Wednesday or Thursday.
The fallout from his remarks was swift and strong, with current and former players speaking out in dismay. An NFL player, who previously played for Del Rio and spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, told The Washington Post the comments irked but didn’t surprise him, “because I’ve heard these for the last two , three years. He’s been consistent. … People died, and he wants to call it ‘a dust-up.’ ”
The player added that he would have trouble playing for Del Rio again “because he doesn’t support me as a human being” and said the coach would never have made those comments “if he didn’t feel like he had a bunch of people agreeing with him.”
From the river issued an apology on Twitter late Wednesday, saying that his reference to the Jan. 6 attack as a “dust-up” was “irresponsible and negligent.” But his previous comments from him continued to make waves throughout the week.
Two Virginia senators said Wednesday that, in the wake of Del Rio’s comments, they could no longer support legislation intended to encourage the Commanders to build a new stadium in the state. the bill was pulled entirely a day later, and State Senate Majority Leader Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax) cited Del Rio’s remarks as one of the deciding factors.
On Thursday, the president of the NAACP, Derrick Johnson, issued a statement calling for Del Rio to resign or be fired. And Rod Graves, the executive director of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, a diversity group that works closely with the NFL on its minority hiring, said Del Rio’s comments “go against the values” of the alliance and the NFL.
“His comments do not reflect the organization’s views and are extremely hurtful to our great community here in the DMV,” Rivera said in his statement. “As we saw [Thursday] night in the [Jan. 6 committee] hearings, what happened on the Capitol on Jan. 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. …
“I feel strongly that after our conversation this morning, he will have a greater understanding for the impact of his language and the values that our team stands for.”