Onward: Sean Taylor, Victim (1983-2007)

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Sean Taylor, an all-pro safety for the Washington Redskins, died early yesterday morning from a gunshot wound inflicted by an intruder at his Miami home on Monday evening.

That’s what we know. beyond the 24-year-old’s accomplishments on the playing field and his biographical background, that’s what we know.

Until we know more, we – I mean my esteemed (some, not so much so) media colleagues – need to refrain from the kind of knee-jerk journalism that seems to rear its ig’nant head whenever a young black man is killed (which is way too often). On the day Taylor died, much of the coverage of his all-too-brief life and untimely end touched upon speculation surrounding the circumstances of the shooting or, worse, the “culture” that may have contributed to the crime.

Love that word “culture.” It’s the new code-word for blame-the-victim because he’s a young black men who grew up in a crime-infested, drug-ridden environment but who wouldn’t leave his homies behind when he got phat and filthy rich..

Interestingly, Sports Illustrated expounded on the phenomenon in last week’s issue in an interesting take on Michael Vick and the challenges faced by black athletes from poor neighborhoods to walk in their new world of prosperity. (Note to my former colleagues: ALL men and women of color from poor neighborhoods face the same challenge to, as you wrote, “not forget were you come from.” And, oh yeah, why did you use a photo of Ray Lewis in handcuffs and prison garb when a) every other athlete picture was in their uniform and b) the man was acquitted?) But I digress.

Today TIME, tapping on Taylor’s having attended the University of Miami, wondered whether there was a Curse of the ‘Canes, somehow conjuring the notion that Taylor’s death (stacked against other tragedies involving former UM players) could be blamed on the program’s rougish past. Jeez.

This morning, Boomer Esiason, in his nationally syndicated talk show, hosted a discussion regarding whether the NFL should be holding a moment of silence in every stadium this Sunday, as NFL commissioner stated would happen. One argument was if the league had not done it for previous players who died (no matter the circumstances), why then for Taylor? The other touched upon Taylor’s so-called “troubled” past and insinuated that because the player had not been an ideal citizen (whatever that is) perhaps he did not deserve such treatment.

While the first argument at least merits discussion, the second one is sickening and loathsome. As much of a cliche as it may sound, Sean Taylor was part of the NFL’s “family.” And I don’t know about you, but I know I’ve got some family with “troubled” histories. But you know what, they’re still family. If something tragic were to happen to them, they would be mourned as painfully as any other family member.

What’s past is past. Taylor’s only major tango with the legal system occurred two years ago and by all accounts he has been a maturing model of behavior since then. On the day he was gunned down in his own home by a still-at-large intruder, Sean Taylor was a loving father and companion, a friend, brother and son. And teammate.

The “culture” and “troubled past” angles are beyond stretch in covering the life and tragic death of Sean Taylor. It is not our role to bury the dead. Leave that to the undertakers.

A similar take: Click here.

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