While they continue to deal with the fallout from an NFL investigation into workplace culture, the Washington Football Team announced they will retire late safety Sean Taylor’s No. 21 jersey Sunday.
Taylor, a premier defender in the league, died in November 2007 after being shot during a robbery attempt at his Florida home. He was 24.
The WFT will play host to the Chiefs in Week 6, where Taylor’s family will join the team on-field for a pregame ceremony before his jersey retirement. Sunday is also Alumni Homecoming for the team, which will honor nearly 100 members of the franchise at FedExField.
“There will never be another 21,” the WFT team tweeted Thursday.
The news came amid leaked emails from the NFL’s investigation into Washington, which led to the resignation of Raiders head coach Jon Gruden.
On Monday, the New York Times published emails, from 2011 through 2018, that exposed Gruden’s use of racist, homophobic and misogynistic language. Many of the emails were sent to Bruce Allen, then the GM for Washington. Gruden stepped down from his position later that day.
Other emails reportedly show inappropriate images of former WFT cheerleaders that were secretly distributed by coaches via email. Former Washington cheerleader Melanie Coburn created a petition Friday, calling on the NFL and the franchise to “do the right thing for women” and “make Washington’s sexual misconduct investigation public.”
In wake of the email situation, some fans took issue with the team’s timing of the announcement and that fans were only given a few days notice if they wanted to attend.
Jason Wright, Washington Football Team President, apologized in a tweet after seeing the backlash.
“We wanted to do something long overdue by retiring players’ numbers. Months ago we planned for Bobby Mitchell and Sean Taylor to be the first two,” he wrote. “Seeing the reaction, I’m very sorry that the short notice does not properly reflect the impact Sean had. President’s Brief to come…”
One person on Twitter user the words “PR stunt” in response to Sunday’s game. Another tweeted, “Retiring Sean Taylor’s jersey while the team is trying to ride out a scandal is just next level disgusting.”
ESPN anchor Randy Scott added, “Sean Taylor deserves better than being used as a PR shield.”
During Sunday’s home game, WFT players will wear helmet stickers tp pay homage to Taylor, and full-time staff will wear a #21 lapel pin in his honor.
Taylor is the third WFT player to have a jersey number retired in the team’s 89-year history.
The two-time Pro Bowler spent all four seasons of his career with Washington, after he was selected fifth overall by the team in the 2004 NFL Draft.
Taylor was posthumously honored by the NFL and named a 2nd team All-Pro selection in 2007. The next year, the WFT announced the late safety would be inducted as the 43rd member of the Washington Ring of Fame.