The Washington Football Team will retire Sean Taylor’s No. 21 jersey prior to Sunday’s home game against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Taylor will become the third player in franchise history to receive the honor, joining Pro Football Hall of Famers Sammy Baugh (No. 33) and Bobby Mitchell (No. 49).
Washington also announced Thursday a road that leads to FedExField will be renamed “Sean Taylor Road.”
No member of the team has worn No. 21 since Taylor was shot during a burglary attempt at his home in Miami on Nov. 26, 2007. He died the following day at the age of 24.
“I came into the NFL the same year as Sean Taylor and immediately his athletic ability, resilience, grit, and relentless work ethic set him apart. I and many others looked to him as a role model,” Washington president Jason Wright said in a statement. “The fact that he was tragically taken so early hurt our player community, but also our fans, coaches, and staff. We will continue to remember him and hold him up as an example of professionalism and excellence, and we will all strive to mirror his excellence in our own ways.”
Backlash on social media hit quickly, with questions and skepticism around the timing of the Taylor recognition. The team had not previously disclosed the plans to honor Taylor.
Thursday’s news came in the midst of another wave of negative publicity regarding the team’s past workplace environment.
The workplace-related investigation is back in the spotlight as media discovery of disgraced former Raiders coach Jon Gruden, who resigned earlier this week, dominates the news cycle. The Wall Street Journal and New York Times reported Gruden sent several offensive email messages, which included photos of topless women, and multiple examples of extreme racist and bigoted language, to former Washington executive Bruce Allen.
Washington addressed the relatively short notice of the announcement with a statement on Thursday.
“We have been planning this weekend’s tribute to Sean Taylor since before the start of the season in partnership with Sean Taylor’s family and as part of our Alumni weekend activities,” the team said. “We are looking forward to the opportunity to rededicate Sean Taylor Road with Sean Taylor’s friends, family and team alumni and are excited to officially retire his jersey during the game with our fans and alumni present as part of our Alumni Homecoming Weekend activities.
“We apologize to fans who would have liked more notice and will continue to share with fans ways we will be celebrating Sean Taylor’s legacy over the next month.”
Taylor wore No. 36 during his rookie season with Washington after the club selected him with the fifth overall pick of the 2004 NFL Draft. He switched to No. 21 the following year.
A two-time Pro Bowl selection, Taylor recorded 305 tackles, 12 interceptions, eight forced fumbles and one fumble recovery in 55 career games (53 starts) with Washington.
–Field Level Media