The Washington Redskins, trying desperately to motivate their troops, turned to a genuine military hero for inspiration Saturday night. Former Navy SEAL Rob O’Neill, who claims he fired the shots that killed Osama bin Laden, addressed the team, as some players attested later on social media.
Last week, O’Neill, who has earned two Silver and five Bronze stars, went public with his claim. He spoke to the Associated Press of his exploits, including the bin Laden killing, the 2009 mission to rescue the captain of the merchant ship Maersk Alabama, later the subject of the film Captain Phillips, and the rescue of Marcus Luttrell, the subject of the film Lone Survivor. Pentagon officials have said O’Neill fired shots in the bin Laden raid, but it’s not clear if his shots killed Bin Laden.
O’Neill, who made a number of television and media appearances in the last week, defended the publicity by saying that the American public has a right to know how bin Laden was killed as well as other efforts of the SEALs. He allowed that he would not reveal any classified information or tactics that the SEALs use. He said, “The last thing I want to do is endanger anybody. I think the good outweighs the bad.”
The Redskins rarely bring in a guest speaker, but the timing was appropriate, as they honored the military at Sunday’s game with their annual Salute to Service. O’Neill, who is a Redskins fan, spoke Saturday night of the values embodied in the SEALs’ mission, asserting that the teamwork, precision, and courage displayed echoed the same values of a football team.
Washington wide receiver Pierre Garcon posted a photo of himself with O’Neill on Instagram. He wrote, “We had the honor of meeting and listening to a real HERO tonight before our game tomorrow and he’s a Redskins fan. Navy Seal Team 6 Rob O’Neill thank you for the inspiring words. #HTTR.” Quarterback Robert Griffin, who calls himself a “military brat,” posed with O’Neill, too.
But apparently some of the values of teamwork O’Neill espoused did not rub off. After Sunday’s loss to Tampa Bay, 27-7, in which he was sacked six times, Griffin said, “If you want to look at the good teams in this league and the great quarterbacks, the Peytons (Manning) and the Aaron Rodgers, those guys don’t play well if their guys don’t play well.” Yet he also allowed, “All of the sacks are on me. Period.”