- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 27, 2022

LANDOVER — The Washington Commanders specifically did not use the word “statue” to describe the team’s new memorial of Sean Taylor.

Now we know why. 

On the 15th anniversary of the late safety’s murder, the Commanders unveiled a mannequin-looking memorial to Taylor prior to Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons — again drawing considerable backlash for how the organization has handled a tribute to one of its most iconic players. 

Taylor’s display featured a mishmash of Taylor’s Redskins uniform, pants and gear (helmet, cleats and gloves) on a mannequin-like body that used wires for arms and legs.

The memorial was the team’s latest attempt at honoring Taylor. Last year, the Commanders faced harsh criticism after they gave just days’ notice that they were retiring Taylor’s No. 21 jersey at a home game against the Kansas City Chiefs. Team President Jason Wright issued multiple apologies for the short notice.

Sunday’s rainy-day unveiling came with plenty of notice — the team announced back in June that it planned to honor Taylor with a “permanent installation” — but the actual display left fans underwhelmed.

“I was expecting a statue,” said Maurice Patterson, a 34-year-old Lexington Park, Maryland, resident. “I like what they did here as far as the memorial, but it could’ve at least been a wax figure of an actual Sean Taylor — at the very minimum. I think people were really expecting a statue. There’s no statue here at the stadium, Sean Taylor could’ve been the first statue. They could’ve done a lot more to celebrate him and his legacy.”

“It was a great idea, but it could’ve been displayed better. They missed the mark.”

In the moments before the memorial was shown, fans gathered on the FedEx Field concourse to watch the ceremony. Wright addressed the crowd for five minutes, with fans starting chants of “21!” before the team removed the covering that draped the display. 

Taylor’s family was also in attendance and appeared to be moved by the tribute. The family cried as Wright spoke about Taylor, and when the memorial was finally unveiled. 

In his speech, Wright said the memorial could be moved from venue to venue, indicating that the team planned to have the memorial displayed at the team’s future stadium. 

“It’s almost the like the weather and the sky knew because we all are still grieving on some level the loss of this young man who had such an impact on this area and this franchise,” Wright said. “There’s a few tears coming from the sky to just mark this day.”

The memorial was also the launch of the Taylor-related merchandise that was designed by Jackie Taylor, Taylor’s daughter. The gear was sold at the team store and online, with proceeds set to benefit gun violence prevention initiatives. 

Taylor, the fifth overall pick in 2004, died in November 2007 when burglars broke into his home and shot him. 

“Many have asked over the last year or so, ‘Why do so much for someone who played such a short amount of time for this team?’” Wright said “I want to address that very directly: Honor is not conferred on somebody’s time and tenure in something. It’s on their impact. … I would argue for a whole generation of Washington football, no one had more impact than Sean Taylor.” 

It’s perhaps because of that impact that the reaction, particularly on social media, to Taylor’s memorial was so visceral. 

“Good lord this franchise is an unrelenting embarrassment,” one fan tweeted. 

“This is low key trash and kind of disrespectful,” another replied. “This looks like a Ross display.” 

“They really put his uniform on a jc penny mannequin and called it a permanent fixture,” one said. 

Jacob Calvin Meyer contributed to this report.

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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