The Buffalo Bills will face the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, Dec. 10 with their season on the line. It has been a difficult campaign all around for Buffalo. Rather than taking the next step toward Super Bowl contention, the Bills have regressed to 6-6, currently on the wrong side of the AFC Wild Card bubble.
Now, head coach Sean McDermott — his seat already warm from the failure of his extremely talented team — has come under fire for egregious comments made in a recent morning address to the team at St. John Fisher College in Pittsford, New York. Tyler Dunne gets credit for the report.
When emphasizing the Bills' need to come together, McDermott allegedly evoked the terrorists behind 9/11 as an example of collective communication and cohesion. McDermott noted the terrorists' ability to "get on the same page to orchestrate attacks to perfection."
When confronted with the report, McDermott said he "immediately apologized to the team" and expressed regret over his choice of metaphor.
Here is the full video of McDermott's response, in which he calls 9/11 a "horrific" event in U.S. history and notes the loss of a close personal friend on that day. He took questions from reporters, who asked him to dive deeper into the context of his statements.
Bills coach Sean McDermott under fire for citing 9/11 in team speech
According to the report, McDermott went around the room during his morning address, asking players questions about tactics and obstacles faced by the 9/11 attackers.
It goes without saying that trivializing 9/11 in the context of football schematics and pointing to terrorists as an example of organization and togetherness does not work. The Bills have not yet released a team statement, but one has to imagine McDermott will face further consequences — at the very least in the court of public opinion.
Buffalo is situated roughly 300 miles north of New York City, where the attacks occurred. It has now been over 22 years since 9/11, but that is still a fresh and tragic event for many in the area. McDermott expressed remorse, but the instinct to even mention 9/11 in that context brings up a lot of valid questions about his personality and leadership.
Buffalo will look to put this behind them and focus on Sunday's football game, but McDermott should continue to face accountability from the media and from his employer. It's important not to gloss over such statements, and once again, credit for Tyler Dunne for the essential sourced reporting.