Yes, he has the right to speak his mind. But the First Amendment guarantees freedom from governmental consequences for most words uttered in a public forum. It doesn’t guarantee freedom from private fallout.
Those consequences can include being criticized by others for those views. They also can include, in some situations, the loss of business opportunities and/or employment — especially if the person is employed in an industry that relies on, for example, locker-room harmony, fan support, and in some cases a quest for taxpayer money to build a stadium.
Del Rio’s factually misguided effort to downplay the January 6 insurrection by calling it a “dustup” necessarily exposes him to potential employment consequences, especially after Virginia state senator Jeremy McPike called the comments the final nail in the public-funding coffin. Our guess is that he chose to post an apology after being told to choose between apologizing or leaving.
The next question is whether his apology ends it. Will the Commanders consider their options at the position of defensive coordinator? Head coach Ron Rivera has a defensive background, making a late-offseason transition easier to accomplish. Besides, Del Rio as a defensive coordinator isn’t Bill Belichick as a defensive coordinator; the notion that talent-trumps-all simply doesn’t apply to Del Rio the way it would apply to others.
This isn’t a question of “cancel culture,” a phrase routinely used by those who prefer to have the power to speak and act without any consequences at all. This is a question of football business. Are the best interests of the Commanders served by keeping Del Rio, or by moving on?
They’re constantly making that same assessment as to the players at the bottom of the 90-man offseason roster. They’ll make those decisions as to many more when the roster cuts to 53.
It’s a constant question for every NFL franchise. What is in the best interests of the team? If the Commanders decide it’s in their best interests to part ways with Del Rio, they won’t hesitate to do it. And, unlike the shameful manner in which the Raiders secretly lined up Jon Gruden to replace Del Rio while he still had the job in late 2017, this time around it will be his own damn fault.