Sean Taylor deserves better than a wire mannequin and Dan Snyder's repeated abuse of his legacy
I am sick for Sean Taylor's family.
Because once again the Washington Commanders franchise — to be more specific, we mean team owner Dan Snyder — exploited the memory of the beloved slain safety for cheap public relations points.
Via a cheap mannequin it is calling a "permanent memorial installation."
In advance of Sunday's home game against Atlanta, which was the 15th anniversary of the day Taylor was killed in his Miami-area home by intruders who didn't expect the rehabbing young star and his family to be home, Washington announced that the memorial would be unveiled.
Many expected a statue, you know, a life-sized, painstakingly crafted likeness of Taylor, perhaps pulling in an interception, or more likely, leveling one of his trademark bone-crushing tackles on a ball-carrier.
Instead, as hundreds of fans, several former teammates and Taylor's family whooped and waited in anticipation as a burgundy cloth was pulled away to reveal the memorial, they were met with something else. Something that looked like the Commanders went to the store room of the pro shop and slapped some lost-and-found items on it and called it a memorial.
For any other NFL franchise, it would be an embarrassment.
Even with expectations exceedingly low given Snyder's history as Washington owner, it was an abomination, a wire frame atop a base and bereft of detail.
The No. 21 jersey is Nike-branded, which isn't historically accurate as Taylor would have worn a Reebok jersey; Nike didn't start manufacturing NFL jerseys until the 2012 season, almost five full years after Taylor's death. The pants are Reebok, which is accurate, but why is the uniform mismatched?
The shoes are black Adidas soccer cleats, and while Taylor wore soccer cleats sometimes, photos from his career show they were more often the classic Nike "Total 90" style; in other photos, he is shown in Nikes with burgundy on the toe.
Perhaps most egregious is that the helmet on the figure doesn't have a taped facemask; it's true that Taylor didn't do that for every game of his career, but he did it frequently enough that it's something he's been remembered for, including by his former teammates and current Commanders defensive standout Chase Young.
It looked like a couple of marketing interns were given the assignment a few weeks ago and did the project Sunday morning, hours before it was due.
Except this wasn't a college midterm, it was supposed to be a memorial to a young man killed at just 24 years old, as he was just coming into his own as a man, a father and a football player. Taylor was and is respected by a generation of University of Miami fans and NFL fans who were inspired by his play and utterly heartbroken by his death.
But to Dan Snyder, Taylor has become a prop, brought out of storage when he wants some positive headlines.
Remember last year and the insultingly shoddy way Washington honored Taylor? With Snyder under fire for a laundry list of transgressions (some things never change), the team announced for the first time on Thursday that the following Sunday, only 72 hours later, it would make Taylor just the third player in franchise history to have his number retired.
What followed was an abomination.
In an attempt to cover up the fact that it looked like a hastily produced event to try to mask the stench of Snyder's wrongdoing, team president Jason Wright explained that the team kept news of the ceremony under wraps for weeks on purpose, and expressed surprise that so many fans were mad they were given so little time to buy tickets and travel to the game.
That day, Snyder met with Taylor's family in a comically oversized team hoodie, and then the family was brought to the stadium access road that had been renamed for Taylor and made to pose for photos in front of a new sign. One problem: No one bothered to have the bank of port-a-potties moved elsewhere. Charming.
Since it was also alumni weekend and Snyder was supposedly suspended by the NFL at that time, there wasn't a real halftime ceremony for Taylor. No speeches (Snyder would have been mercilessly booed anyway). No video vignettes from former coaches and teammates talking about why Taylor was great and may have been considered one of the best ever had he lived a full life.
It's not wrong that Taylor should be remembered or honored; it's the way Washington has seemingly taken to using his memory as a shield that is so grating, and the haphazard way the "memorials" are carried out that is maddening.
Sean Taylor and his family deserve better than a wire mannequin and awkward halftime presentations that look like they were slapped together over a couple of hours. They deserve better than being Dan Snyder's prop.