Monday, December 3, 2007

Sean Taylor- A Victim Twice Over

As I woke up to the news of Sean Taylor’s passing from a fatal gunshot wound in an attempted robbery in his Miami home on November 27th, the initial shock of his murder sent a jolt throughout my body. His career was as secondary to my thoughts as the position he played, hoping he’d avoid the growing number of slain young African American men, praying he’d pull through his two day struggle fighting for his life. A promising young star on the cusp of greatness, his life was cut short by an assailant’s bullet. After the initial shock of his passing set in, I thought of his immediate family and those closest to him. Sean was outlived by a grieving father, a chief of police in a small Florida town who risks his life fending off perpetrators such as the one took his son’s life. The 24 year old man whose girlfriend recently bore their first child that will never recall hearing her name called by her father. His former teammates and coaching staff reminded of Sean’s presence as they gloomily walk past his empty locker.

To the hard core football fan, we’re limited to knowing Sean Taylor mostly through his exploits on the playing field. Equipped with the range of a young Ken Griffey Jr. patrolling centerfield, the former Miami Hurricane standout had the physical ability to jump with Randy Moss, and the fearsome tackling of Jack Tatum who struck fear in opposing receivers. An imposing figure in the Washington Redskins secondary, Sean Taylor stood at 6’2 and weighed 225 pounds, the prototype of the NFL’s new age safety. Yet Taylor possessed a throw back quality. Going sleeveless most games, Sean rarely wore gloves or tape wrapped around his wrists. Wearing none of the new age protective padding found on the modern day player, the ferocity of his tackles were the only thing that matched the rawness of his appearance on the field. A first time pro-bowler in 2006 destined for many more, Taylor was considered one of the best safeties in the NFL. But to those unfamiliar with him, the soft spoken Sean Taylor was introduced to their lives through the tragic manner of his death.

As news of Taylor’s murder was circulated throughout the sports world, his story came tied with an obscure yet familiar fine print. A fine print that came fastened with the news following the plight of the victims of Hurricane Katrina. A fine print that covered Sean Bell, the unarmed groom shot to death by the NYPD. A fine print whose possible side effects ultimately result in some having a complete loss of sympathy after consuming a strong dose of tactless speculation broadcast as fact, blanket generalizations and egregious indifference.

Taylor’s 2004 arrest for a DUI where he was later acquitted and an arrest a year later for brandishing a firearm on individuals he believed stole his ATV which resulted in a plea agreement was prominently posted alongside the news of his passing.

Taking it as their cue as Taylor’s lifeless body laid in a Miami hospital, snake oil salesmen posed as sports radio jocks and journalists hit the ground running several hours after the announcement of his death. Anchored to his previous legal issues, Taylor was incautiously vilified as an athlete living a careless lifestyle ultimately leading to his then unresolved murder. As the circumstances swirling around Taylor’s murder remained cloudy and armed with a less than stellar perception of African American men, Taylor’s departure was used as conduit to display their perfunctory insights on African American athletes and the African American community, as their shows and columns became their personal bully pulpits to deliver their mean spirited sermons. Soon, the “Hip Hop Macarthyists,” in their usual garb chimed in, blaming a long besieged art form as one of the primary contributors of problems facing the African American community, coming to a head with Taylor’s murder. Administering their own cursory version of the events leading to his premature departure, baseless speculation further fueled the growing story behind his murder, the grieving process over Taylor’s loss lost in their careless bandying around of his name for their own self serving purposes.

One is left questioning why the post-mortem coverage of the canines and the manner by which they lost their lives on property owned by Michael Vick received more humane coverage than that given to Sean Taylor. The public’s eyes became fixated on the media’s unveiling of the underworld of dog-fighting, missing the boat that has long been docked to have a serious discussion addressing the mile long scroll of problems facing African American communities and the many athletes that come from them which predates Grand Master Flash inventing the scratch or Kool Herc fashioned a sound into a break beat. With four suspects currently held in connection to Taylor’s murder ranging from ages 17 through 20, are we again making that same mistake?

A piece of me falls with the dirt soon to be tossed onto the casket of the Skins safety who died protecting his loved ones from harms way. Left victimized by a different set of deplorable characters who steered the news of his murder away from the feelings I first encountered on the announcement of his death one early Tuesday morning. Sean Taylor is laid to rest as a victim twice over, buried under a mountain of rush to judgments and baseless generalizations that many of us are still here fighting to stave off from ourselves.

copywritten 2007