In a little less than three months, it will be the 15th anniversary of Sean Taylor’s death from a home invasion in South Florida. A physical specimen by any metric, the University of Miami and Washington NFL franchise star died from a gunshot wound at age 24.
The 6-foot-2 safety, nicknamed “Meast” because he was half-man, half-beast, would’ve at the very least had a long career, and at best could’ve made it to Canton. It was a tragedy that’s still hard to believe considering Taylor’s borderline supernatural athleticism.
This week, another young pro football player for the NFL team in our nation’s capital — rookie running back Brian Robinson Jr. — was shot twice in his lower body during an armed robbery attempt in DC. By divine intervention or incredible luck, the bullets missed enough vital ligaments, bones, and everything else that the Alabama product might not miss the season and could even return to the field.
During the early hours of Monday morning in Spain, now-Chelsea striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was the target of a terrifying robbery at his home outside of Barcelona that left him with a broken jaw and his family traumatized. Thankfully, his wife and children were unharmed despite being present for the ordeal.
Also on Monday, a prosecutor in Atlanta announced an indictment that detailed a spree of home invasions targeting celebrities and athletes in the Georgia city, including the Falcons’ Calvin Ridley and Atlanta United keeper Brad Guzan. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis alleged that members of the Drug Rich gang scour social media for high-profile people who flaunt their wealth on various platforms and then target them. The crimes in the indictment span from home invasions to kidnappings to armed robbery, shootings, and carjackings.
Willis did offer some advice for people who flaunt shiny, expensive items on Instagram, TikTok, etc.
“I do have a message for the public: Where it is kind of fun to put your things on social media and show off, unfortunately, these gangs are becoming more savvy, more sophisticated in the way that they target you.”
There’s been no indication that something similar happened in the Aubameyang incident, and it sounded like Robinson was just going into town to grab some food. But they’re not the only athletes this year who’ve been targeted as Rays shortstop Wander Franco had $650,000 worth of jewelry lifted from his car. Draymond Green had a large number of valuables — more than $1 million in total — ransacked from his Los Angeles home while attending the Super Bowl in Los Angeles in February.
Athletes are easier marks than anonymous rich people because they purposely draw large followings (for the brand) on social media, and the public knows how much they’re getting paid.
How should they protect themselves?
Dan Manning, CEO of USPA Security, a company that provides services like bodyguards and home defense, recommended athletes (or anyone) looking to protect themselves at home and in public should employ a team of professionals for their safety and to take into account the risks of everything from clubs to travel routes to restaurants and beyond.
If someone didn’t want a security detail, he suggested they look into the advances in technology, even offering up an autonomous drone system. However, he said, “it would be extremely difficult to protect someone in public without a dedicated team.”
Manning also echoed Willis’ sentiments about an online presence. He believes a social media footprint of your valuables should be non-existent.
“If you are truly concerned about yourself and those around you, you should not be advertising the things people would want to take from you,” Manning said in an interview.
Washington Commanders head coach Ron Rivera, who continues to be too good of a person for that organization, wore an orange shirt during a news conference this week to support gun-safety measures, which brings up the issue of players carrying protection themselves.
More guns seem like a bad idea, and one can’t help but be reminded of incidents like Plaxico Burress shooting himself in the leg, Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton pulling pieces in the locker room, and all of the athletes who’ve caught a weapons charge.
“Only persons who are highly trained, and continuously train, should carry firearms,” Manning said. “Persons with no experience with firearms become a liability to those around them if they choose to carry one.”
Far be it for me to tell professional athletes how to spend their money, or use social media, but it seems like a bodyguard or two is a worthy investment if athletes don’t want to *gasp* make their feeds private.
With the rate at which these crimes have been coming lately, it feels like it’s less a matter of if a catastrophe akin to Taylor’s happens again but rather when. Whether it’s an increased security detail, the most elaborate Ring system ever created, a muted online presence, or keeping their cash in escrow (if that’s how it works), clearly added emphasis should be placed on being less vulnerable.