LANDOVER, Md. (AP) — The Washington Commanders unveiled a helmet, No. 21 jersey, pants and cleats stood up in mannequin form as a memorial to Sean Taylor on Sunday, the 15th anniversary of the late safety's death.
It was not a statue but rather a glass-enclosed installation on the concourse of FedEx Field, which drew ire on social media for being mismatched and falling short of what many hoped and expected it would be.
“Sean Taylor Deserved a Statue,” former Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III tweeted.
Members of Taylor's family were on hand for the pregame ceremony, a decade and a half to the day he died at age 24 from a gunshot wound after being shot in the upper thigh by an intruder in his Miami home. A mural honoring Taylor was also revealed.
Following his team's 19-13 victory against Atlanta, coach Ron Rivera opened his news conference, “On the 15th anniversary of the passing of Sean Taylor, this one's for the Taylor family.”
Several Commanders players wore Taylor jerseys to the stadium and said it was important to pay tribute to the hard-hitting defender.
“They came up to us earlier in the week and told us that there was going to be the revealing of the Sean Taylor everything,” safety Darrick Forest said. “It’s just about pride. We want to let his legacy live, so we went out there and did our thing.”
Some on social media pointed out the display included a strange mix of a Nike jersey, Reebok pants and Adidas cleats. The use of soccer cleats instead of football ones also sparked criticism, but Taylor's daughter, Jackie, said it was intentional.
“It was something that was super special to him and something he chose to do,” she told the local CBS affiliate, WUSA9. “It was beautiful, honestly. They put everything that he wore — soccer cleats, little things that were special to him and that he did as a player. That was really special.”
There was only praise from current players for Taylor, who was a two-time Pro Bowl selection in his first three NFL seasons and only got into 57 games before being killed.
“It was a big thing just to give him his flowers and do it the right way because he was probably the best safety ever,” safety Kamren Curl said. “Just to be able to do that and be able to be there while they do that was big.”
The team retired Taylor’s number last season in what looked to be a hastily put together ceremony, announcing it only four days before. Several alumni said they were unable to make it because of the late notice.
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Stephen Whyno, The Associated Press