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Wednesday, February 9, 2022

OPINION:

After the Dec. 23 car crash involving Washington Commanders safety Deshazor Everett that claimed the life of his passenger, 29-year-old Olivia Peters, coach Ron Rivera responded soberly when asked about the accident.

“The only thing I want to say is that I was very saddened to hear the news,” Rivera told reporters. “My thoughts and prayers go out to the family of the young lady and also go out to Deshazor and his family as well. It’s a very difficult situation and we’ll let things go on and let the police and the investigation go through and find out what happened.”


If only he‘d stopped there.

A few days later, on Dec. 26, after a humiliating 56-14 Sunday night loss to the Dallas Cowboys — a game that included a sideline altercation between teammates Jonathan Allen and Deron Payne that came to actual blows — Rivera revisited the tragedy in some regrettable postgame comments.

Without mentioning the fatal crash specifically, Rivera talked about how his players — his players — had been through some tough times in recent weeks.

“Bad things happen, OK?” Rivera said. “You have to deal with those things and it’s tough. It’s not easy to try and separate and compartmentalize situations like that. It spills over. It gets to people. It’s human nature. These guys are more than just robots. These are players. These are people. They’ve got a teammate going through something right now. It’s tough. You have an opportunity, and you don’t have everybody playing. That’s hard on people. I mean that’s not normal s—-. That’s real-life s—- and that’s what they’re dealing with. These are young men and we’re just trying to help them along the way.”

I cringed. I cringed every time Rivera used the “real life” difficulties facing his team as a ploy for sympathy and defense for his team’s collapse.

He came back to it again in a public spat with former New York Giants coach Joe Judge.     

Officials announced Tuesday that Everett has been charged with involuntary manslaughter in the death of Peters. The charges offered a snapshot of some of those “real life” struggles the 29-year-old safety was burdened with when Rivera cited the tragedy as part of the explanation for losing games.

According to the charges, Everett, hospitalized after the crash with non-life-threatening injuries and released, was driving at more than twice the 45-mph speed limit. That’s more than 90 mph on a road with a 45-mph speed limit. His passenger was killed when the vehicle left the roadway, clipped some trees and rolled.

The news that Everett could be facing jail time prompted this from the team: “We are aware of these charges and are continuing to monitor the situation. We will have no further comment at this time.”

Everett’s teammates knew what happened that night on Gum Spring Road. The people in the Commanders’ building knew what happened that night on Gum Spring Road. And Rivera had to know what happened that night on Gum Spring Road. If he didn’t, then he is Coach Clueless.

Mourners at Peters’ funeral on Dec. 30 suspected there was more to the story of what happened the night Everett’s 2010 Nissan left the road. They talked about Everett racing Commanders teammates that night, at speeds much greater than what was in the Loudoun County report, according to several sources.

Linebacker Jamin Davis and cornerback Benjamin St.-Juste told police they were driving behind Everett after going out to dinner with him, ESPN reported.

Everett’s attorney, Kaveh Noorishad, released this statement following the charges being made public, according to several news reports: “Our team continues to investigate this matter as we intend on vigorously defending Mr. Everett against these allegations. We continue to ask that judgment be reserved until all facts are fully investigated and litigated in the proper forum. At this time we cannot comment any further due to the pending litigation.”

“Cannot comment” should have been the road Rivera traveled — particularly since it was just a few weeks removed from when another NFL player, former Raiders receiver Henry Ruggs III, was charged with driving under the influence causing death or substantial harm in the November death of Tina O. Tintor while driving at 156 mph, authorities said.

Instead, the Washington coach continued to use the tragedy — and the shooting death of Montez Sweat’s brother on Dec. 28 — to seek sympathy for his players.

Asked by reporters on Jan. 2 if his team “showed growth as the season went on,” Rivera answered, “Well, I think we have moments. I really do. I think we still have ways a way to grow, though. It’s one of those things we will continue to grow, but we showed what we are capable of. We showed some resilience at times, and then sometimes it was overwhelming. I think that’s a good word for the last couple of weeks for these guys. It was overwhelming on them. And as I said last week, these are young men that had to deal with an awful lot. I think this is something that we’ll grow from, we’ll learn from, and hopefully next week we’ll come out and we’ll play to our abilities.”

To continue to reference what his players have been through as “overwhelming” and an “awful lot” when the circumstances surrounding this accident would eventually implicate one of his team captains in the death of this young woman is insensitive at the very least, callous at the very worst.

Finally, when Judge, following a loss to the Chicago Bears, made a reference to “fistfights” and “clown shows,” clearly referring to the Allen-Payne fight, Rivera, after initially dismissing Judge’s comments, had more to say in a Jan. 7 appearance on The Kevin Sheehan Show on Team 980 and once more cited the Everett accident.

“To be upfront about it, it disappoints me because for somebody to make a comment like that and not really know the circumstances of the situation we’ve gone through,” Rivera said. “I mean, for goodness sake, you know if you pay attention to what’s happening you would have found out that we had just had one of our most popular players, a guy that’s very popular amongst his teammates, was in a terrible car accident where his longtime girlfriend is killed. We had another player who lost his brother to murder, and then we had another player who lost another brother.”

This team and the people who work for it put the “deaf” in tone deaf.

You can hear Thom Loverro on The Kevin Sheehan Show podcast.

• Thom Loverro can be reached at tloverro@washingtontimes.com.


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