Because sports media desperately wish they could be political media, Jack Del Rio’s comments about the Jan. 6 riot have been in the news for nearly a full month. Now, USA Today Sports decided to do some real journalism, hunting down Del Rio’s friends and family and asking why he is such a racist.
Del Rio, the defensive coordinator for the Washington Commanders, referred to the Jan. 6 riot as a “dust-up” earlier this month. It was a rather sloppy comment he made while trying to highlight real hypocrisy among Democrats and liberal media, who ignored or defended the Black Lives Matter riots in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death in 2020. It should have been a non-story, but sports media naturally blew it up so that they could talk about politics and force the Commanders to punish Del Rio, who was fined $100,000.
Now, more than two weeks after Del Rio’s comments, Josh Peter at USA Today Sports called up Del Rio’s father and his former high school teammates, implying that Del Rio had a racist history that needed to be explored. After all, he criticized the “mostly peaceful protests” that resulted in more than $1 billion in property damage. What else could he be other than a racist?
Peter’s implications are clear, but his evidence is lacking. He pointed to Del Rio criticizing NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace over Wallace’s faux noose controversy, wherein Wallace stubbornly insisted he was the victim of a hate crime after it was proven that he was not. They quote a former high school teammate of Del Rio’s, who was surprised by his comments about the riot but said that Del Rio being a supporter of former President Donald Trump “speaks for itself.”
That same teammate also said Del Rio “as an individual has been a very good guy.” All of Del Rio’s former teammates say similar things, as does Marquette King, who played for Del Rio when he coached the Oakland Raiders. “It’s hard for me to say something negative because my experiences were always positive and super fun with him,” King said.
But there were other “clues and contradictions” that Del Rio was secretly a racist, even if all of his black former teammates and players insist he was a good guy. He got into an altercation with former Chiefs star Otis Taylor when Taylor was among the replacement players filling in during the 1987 NFL labor strike, when Del Rio was playing for the Chiefs. There is no evidence it had anything to do with racism and wasn’t just the result of a heated labor dispute, of course. But Taylor is black, so Peter makes sure to mention it as if it has relevance.
Del Rio appears to be a normal Fox News-viewing conservative. His comments about the Jan. 6 riot were perhaps ill-considered, but his point about double standards was correct. It certainly was not a racist comment that he made. But racism is all sports media know now, so Peter and others must find it, even in places where it doesn’t exist.