When the Buffalo Bills selected Josh Allen at number seven overall in the 2018 NFL Draft, after trading up with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to do so, we knew that questions would arise about Allen’s racially insensitive tweets unearthed by Yahoo! Sports on the eve of the draft. Allen wrote the tweets years ago while still in high school.
On Friday, Lorenzo Alexander, one of the most respected voices in Buffalo’s locker room, addressed the situation in an interview with John Murphy on One Bills Live, the team’s official radio show. While on the program, he said that Allen would need to address the tweets, but he did not want to condemn the 21-year old for something that he did when he was still a teenager.
“What I’m gonna do is extend some grace and wait to get to know the kid and see how he develops. And that’s how you got to approach it. Somebody’s gonna ask him, ‘Why did you say that?’ or ‘Why were you quoting those words?’ He’s gonna have to have a good answer. I’ve listened to a couple of interviews, and I think it’s gonna come from the heart and he’ll be fine,” Alexander told Murphy during the interview.
While Alexander noted his own approach to the situation, he was quick to point out that some of his Bills’ teammates may not be so forgiving, especially in the beginning.
“Now, everyone might not have that same approach. I would encourage every teammate in our locker room to do that...[b]ut he’s gonna maybe have to work a little bit harder to get respect from certain people in the locker room, but I don’t think it’s an issue, because that’s who he was and not who he is.”
Alexander noted that he would advise Allen to address the situation right away, as allowing it to linger could leave some teammates with questions that could easily be answered by confronting the situation head-on as opposed to letting it fester. He also said that fellow Bills’ defensive player Eddie Yarbrough, who was a teammate of Allen’s in college at Wyoming, holds the rookie quarterback in high regard. Yarbrough is black and vouched for Allen’s character.
“He’s played with some African-Americans on his teams, so I know they would say something at some point -- or especially when something like this comes up, they’re gonna tweet, ‘Yeah, this is him,’” Alexander said in an interview with the Associated Press on Friday. “You haven’t heard anything like that. He’s grown, matured, owned it. He’s very contrite and apologetic for what he said and did.”
According to the Associated Press, Allen agreed with Alexander’s assessment on timeliness when informed of the veteran’s comments.
“It’s something that I wouldn’t be afraid or ashamed of doing,” Allen said from the team’s facility in Orchard Park, stressing he would speak with his teammates about it as soon as possible. “I put it on my shoulders. I made a mistake and I just want them to know who I am, because once they get to know who I am, I think they’re going to like what they see.”
The Bills for their part spoke with Allen on Thursday before the first round and the quarterback was contrite, even getting emotional on the phone.
“We take these things seriously in respect to adding any player,” head coach Sean McDermott said Thursday night after taking Allen. “And when this came up, it went to another level.”
“I just really wanted him to know the type of person I was,” Allen said of the phone call. “I was embarrassed by everything that happened. It’s something that I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy.”