The Washington Commanders are nothing if not creative. After all, how many other NFL teams would react to news of an upcoming Washington D.C. attorney general announcement by using their rookie's shooting as a shield?
That was the first step a team spokesperson took in responding to Attorney General Karl Racine scheduling a news conference for Thursday to make a major announcement about the team, following an investigation into the franchise's alleged workplace misconduct and potentially more. In a statement released to Nicki Jhabvala of The Washington Post, the Commanders decided to bring up the shooting of running back Brian Robinson Jr.:
"Less than three months ago, a 23-year-old player on our team was shot multiple times, in broad daylight. Despite the out -of-control violent crime in DC, today the Washington Commanders learned for the first time on Twitter that the D.C. Attorney General will be holding a press conference to "make a major announcement" related to the organization tomorrow.
"The Commanders have fully cooperated with the AG's investigation for nearly a year. As recently as Monday, a lawyer for the team met with the AG who did not suggest at that time that he intended to take any action and, in fact, revealed fundamental misunderstandings of the underlying facts. It is unfortunate that, in his final days in office, Mr. Racine appears more interested in making splashy headlines, based on offbeat legal theories, rather than doing the hard work of making the streets safe for our citizens, including bringing to justice the people who shot one of our players."
Robinson, a third-round pick in the 2022 draft, was shot twice during an attempted robbery in D.C. Two teenagers have been arrested and charged in connection to the shooting. Robinson has since made a successful return to the field. Jhabvala also noted the D.C. attorney general's office doesn't have jurisdiction over serious adult crimes in the district.
The team has for years been fighting off allegations of sexual harassment and other misconduct under team owner Dan Snyder, a matter that has reached Congress and now has criminal investigations in the works among D.C., Virginia and federal authorities.
One person who especially did not appreciate the rhetoric in the Commanders' statement was Robinson's agent, Ryan Williams of Athletes First.
Up until an hour ago, the Commanders handled the Brian Robinson situation with so much care, sincerity and class. And I was so grateful for all of it.
Although I know that there are some great humans in that building, whoever is hiding behind this statement is not one of them. https://t.co/cnD0DtUfqm
— Ryan Williams (@RyanWilliamsA1) November 10, 2022
The statement was widely criticized in the media as a cynical ploy meant to distract from serious issues with the team under Snyder, enough so that Commanders president Jason Wright released a statement affirming the team's support for law enforcement and admitting its statement shouldn't have mentioned Robinson:
I just spoke to Chief Contee, conveying how much we support the work of MPD, as well as public safety leaders and elected officials working to reduce gun violence and crime across the region. The earlier statement expressed our external counsel's ongoing frustration with the Attorney General's office, as they have been nothing but earnest and transparent in their communications with his team. The lawyers' legitimate frustrations with the AG should have been separate and apart from referencing the terrible crime that affected our player.
A quick sampling of the scorn for Washington:
What an absolutely disgraceful response by the @Commanders organization.
To bring the shooting of RB Brian Robinson in this to try and deflect attention from the issue is beyond cowardly.
Shameful behavior. https://t.co/xZD9Lidcjk
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) November 9, 2022
I don't know if tonight's Commanders statement is the worst they've ever released but its certainly my least favorite.
Making Brian Robinson re-live one of the great tragedies of his life is the worst part. They're also demanding the AG do something that isn't his job. So bad.
— Grant Paulsen (@granthpaulsen) November 10, 2022
Somehow Dan Snyder finds a way to hit a new low. Never underestimate him https://t.co/baX7h7pQvI
— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) November 9, 2022
This statement is a disgusting embarrassment. https://t.co/aj9rpwnsU7
— Robert Mays (@robertmays) November 10, 2022
What garbage. An organization happy to throw the city it's supposed to represent underneath the bus. https://t.co/LKLdQ7d6mv
— Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) November 9, 2022
I wonder if the Commanders asked Brian Robinson before using him as a prop to rip on the city they pretend to play in
— Alex Kirshner (@alex_kirshner) November 9, 2022