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Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott apologized on Thursday for citing the 9/11 attackers as an example of successful teamwork during a meeting four years ago.
McDermott’s remarks first came to light through reporting from Go Long, a long-form football publication run by journalist Tyler Dunne. According to an excerpt from Dunne’s recent series on McDermott, which was shared by ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the coach opened a 2019 morning meeting at St. John Fisher College in Pittsford, New York, by telling his players that they could learn some lessons from Mohamed Atta and his fellow hijackers:
He told the entire team they needed to come together. But then, sources on-hand say, he used a strange model: the terrorists on Sept. 11, 2001. He cited the hijackers as a group of people who were all able to get on the same page to orchestrate attacks to perfection. One by one, McDermott started asking specific players in the room questions. “What tactics do you think they used to come together?”
McDermott confirmed Dunne’s reporting on Thursday and expressed remorse in a statement that recalled an often-relevant viral tweet from 2017.
“My intent in the meeting that day was to discuss the importance of communication and being on the same page with the team,” he said. “I regretted mentioning 9/11 in my message that day, and I immediately apologized to the team. Not only was 9/11 a horrific event in our country’s history, but a day that I lost a good family friend.”
McDermott said that the team met again after his remarks, saying that he explained the intent of his words and apologized if any of his players “felt a certain type of way coming out of that meeting.”
Hopefully, McDermott has thought up some examples of teamwork that don’t involve atrocities since then. Which actually isn’t very difficult.