WFT to retire Sean Taylor’s number

FILE — Sean Taylor (21) of the Washington Football Team runs out of the end zone with an interception in the final minute of the game in Landover, Md. Sunday November 26, 2006. (AP / Joseph Silverman / Washington Times).

Sean Taylor’s life and NFL career were cut short, but his legacy with the Washington Football Team will last forever, and on Sunday before the Burgundy and Gold’s home game against the Chiefs, his number, 21, will be retired.

Only 24 at the time, Taylor was killed in a robbery attempt in 2007. On Sunday, Taylor’s family will join the team on the field for a pregame ceremony when Taylor’s contribution to the team will be remembered as his jersey number is officially retired.

Drafted by Washington in 2004, in four seasons, Taylor established himself as one of the premier safeties in the NFL and a fan favorite.

However, the timing of the Taylor’s jersey retirement announcement was met with pushback by many within Washington’s fan base. For some, the timing, a three days’ notice, was not enough advance notice to purchase tickets to attend the game.

For others, the late announcement was seen as a distraction following the release of emails from the NFL’s investigation into the team’s work culture, which written by former Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden to Bruce Allen, the president of what became the Washington Football Team. The released correspondence led to the coach’s resignation earlier this week.

Following the backlash, team president Jason Wright said on a tweet he was sorry for the short notice for fans who wished to attend the game. He later said on a news release that Washington did not handle the situation well.

Calling the honor “long overdue,” Wright said the original goal was to honor Taylor, along with halfback Bobby Mitchell. as part of an alumni weekend.

“We planned to do this right … But we screwed up the execution and, as a result, we realize that we hurt many of our fans deeply,” Wright said. “And for that I and we as an organization are sorry.”

The Washington Football Team will also rededicate the road leading to FedEx Field as Sean Taylor Road as part of the celebration. In addition, Taylor’s family will have the opportunity for a private visit at Taylor’s locker on the Club Level, which has been perfectly preserved from his last game on Nov. 11, 2007.

With some fans unable to attend the game this weekend, Wright said he hopes that they are able to still watch the festivities on television and on the team’s social media pages through a livestream.

“As the guy who really wanted us to start honoring players better and differently — in line with what they paid in the blood, sweat, and tears — I’m angry and sad that we messed up your opportunity to honor Sean in person this weekend,” Wright said.

The first 10,000 fans to arrive Sunday will receive a limited-edition commemorative Sean Taylor rally towel, similar to the original towel created following Taylor’s untimely death. Fans can also order a towel online, with all proceeds going to a legacy project in Taylor’s honor that will be led by his daughter Jackie.

Current players will wear helmet stickers that pay homage to Taylor and fulltime staff will have on a #21 lapel pin on gameday. Also, the team’s gameday magazine will feature Taylor on the cover. Tickets are still available for purchase online on Washington’s website.

WTOP’s José Umaña contributed to this story. 

Dave Johnson

Dave Johnson is Senior Sports Director and morning sports anchor. He first arrived at WTOP in 1989, left in 1992 and returned in 1995. He is a three-time winner of the A.I.R. award as best radio sportscaster in D.C. In 2008 he won the Edward R. Murrow award for best writing for sports commentaries.

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