ASHBURN, Va. — Washington Commanders defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio apologized on Wednesday after calling the Jan. 6, 2021, riots at the U.S. Capitol a “dustup.”
“I made comments earlier today in referencing the attack that took place on the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021. Referencing that situation as a dust-up was irresponsible and negligent and I am sorry,” Del Rio said in a statement posted on Twitter. “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. I have fully supported all peaceful protests in America.
“I love, respect, and support all my fellow coaches, players, and staff that I work with and respect their views and opinions.”
On Monday, Del Rio tweeted in response to a post about upcoming hearings on the events of Jan. 6: “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 told reporters on Wednesday, before his apology, that he was just asking a question about events in the spring and summer of 2020 that followed George Floyd’s death.
“Why are we not looking into those things — if we’re going to talk about it — why are we not looking into those things?” Del Rio said. “I can look at images on the TV, people’s livelihoods are being destroyed, businesses are being burned down, no problem. And then we have a dustup at the Capitol, nothing burned down, and we’re going to make that a major deal. I just think it’s kind of two standards, and if we apply the same standard and we’re going to be reasonable with each other, let’s have a discussion. That’s all it was. Let’s have a discussion.”
The House committee investigating the 2021 insurrection will conduct its first public hearing Thursday. The six hearings, which are expected to last until late June, will be the first time the committee discloses “previously unseen material” about what it has discovered in the course of a 10-month investigation that has touched nearly every aspect of the insurrection.
Unlike any other congressional committee in recent times, the panel’s work has been both highly anticipated by Democrats and routinely criticized by Donald Trump and the former president’s allies, including some Republicans in Congress, who complain it is partisan.
This wasn’t the first time Del Rio caused a stir with his tweets, though there were no indications it has become an issue with his players. Commanders defensive tackle Jonathan Allen told NBC Sports Washington that the tweets were not a locker room topic.
“Everyone is entitled to their own opinion,” Allen said. “Some guys decide to share it on Twitter; some guys don’t. You can have a difference of opinion and still respect one another. I feel that’s what our country is about, that’s what this team is about. 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.”
Cornerback Kendall Fuller said on Wednesday that he wasn’t aware of Del Rio’s tweets.
When a reporter read the tweet to Fuller, he replied: “I don’t have a reaction right now. If I have a reaction or feeling toward something, I’ll express that with him.”
Former Washington cornerback DeAngelo Hall, the team’s radio analyst the past two years, tweeted a clown emoji Wednesday at Del Rio in reply to one of his tweets.
Two years ago, in a response to criticism he was receiving from other Twitter users — and when some identified him as a supporter of Trump — Del Rio tweeted, “I’m 100% for America, if you’re not you can kiss my A$$.”
Commanders head coach Ron Rivera did not reveal whether he has talked with Del Rio about his tweets.
“I’m not going to talk about stuff that I talk to my coaches about, especially stuff that’s off the field and not pertaining to football,” Rivera said. “Everybody’s entitled to their opinion, though.
“If it ever becomes an issue or a situation, we’ll have that discussion. Right now, it’s something that I will deal with when it comes up.”
Earlier Wednesday, Del Rio was asked by reporters whether he was concerned that his tweets could potentially have a negative impact on Black 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. “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.”
Del Rio told reporters during his availability he wasn’t worried about his tweets impacting his relationship with his players, the majority of whom are Black, adding that he doesn’t “think race had anything to do with that incident” on Jan. 6.
“I’m going to be the man I am,” Del Rio said. “I operate here as a coach with nothing but love and respect for everybody that I work with. … If they are [upset] and they want to talk about it, I’d talk about it with anybody, no problem, at any time.
“But they’re not. I’m just expressing myself, and I think we all as Americans have a right to express ourselves, especially if you’re being respectful. I’m being respectful.”
Del Rio’s comment sparked criticism from Virginia State Sen. Scott Surovell, who represents the district where the team recently purchased land with the hopes of building a stadium. Late last month, the Virginia general assembly delayed a vote on a new stadium. A vote could take place later this summer, although it is considered unlikely.
Surovell tweeted Wednesday afternoon: “The likely indifference & tolerance in the @NFL to Jack Del Rio’s indifference to insurrection underscores the league’s hypocrisy in blackballing @Kaepernick7 and also makes clear to me that we won’t be seeing any more votes on stadium bills this year.”
When he was the head coach of the Raiders in 2017, Del Rio defended Marshawn Lynch when Trump criticized the star running back for sitting during the U.S. national anthem but standing during the Mexican anthem before a game in Mexico City.
Del Rio said at the time that “everybody should pay respect to the flag … but it is America and everybody can make their choice.” His wife, Linda, then tweeted that she regretted voting for Trump in 2016.
The Commanders have had a turbulent offseason, at least when it comes to non-football matters. Congress continues to investigate the organization and owner Dan Snyder in particular for the workplace culture; a hearing is scheduled for June 22.
Congress also sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission saying the organization committed financial improprieties. The team rebutted those claims in a 105-page letter of its own to the FTC.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.