Equal Opportunity Offending Gruden loses NFL Coach job and more
The recent departure of ‘revered’ NFL Coach Jon Gruden from the Las Vegas Raiders football team is positive proof that loose lips are not the only thing that can sink ships, racist and misogynist emails can do the trick as well.
In Gruden’s case, his high-profile football career came to a screeching halt as his emails surfaced showing the 58-year-old, one of the league’s highest paid coaches ($100 million for 10 years), in a different light then that of winning Super Bowl Coach. In addition to his career and millions in coaching fees, Gruden has lost something he cannot readily get back, his reputation.
Gruden’s emails revealed to football fans and the public an “equal opportunity offender” who easily and casually wrote racist, misogynistic, and homophobic language over a 7-year period at will.
Gruden’s crude emails were discovered during a review while the league was examining an NFL team, which had nothing to do with Gruden. What started out as an investigation into the Washington Football Team and the conduct of its contentious owner, Daniel Snyder, led to the discovery of emails originating from Jon Gruden. These unflattering messages told an ugly story and exposed Gruden’s unvarnished thoughts on several NFL subjects including women referees in the NFL, gay people in the NFL, and black players kneeling during the national anthem, among other subjects.
Originating back to when he worked at ESPN as the lead analyst for Monday Night Football, Gruden is said to have sent emails to then Washington Football Team President Bruce Allen and others during a seven-year period beginning in 2011. Gruden used a private email address while Allen used his official Washington Football Team account.
In the emails, Gruden said that Commissioner Roger Goodell should not have pressured then-St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher to draft “queers.” Gruden was referring to Michael Sams, the former defensive end and openly gay player who was drafted in 2014. Gruden also used an anti-gay slur in several instances while referring to Goodell and used offensive language to describe some owners, coaches, and members of the media who cover the NFL.
Gruden’s emails also revealed a racist comment about the NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith, as well as a vulgar criticism of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. In a troubling July 2011 email, Gruden said Smith had “lips the size of michelin tires.”
When the email surfaced, Gruden immediately apologized to Smith saying, “I’m ashamed I insulted Smith. I never had a racial thought when I used it. “I’m embarrassed by what’s out there. I certainly never meant for it to sound that bad.”
As for Smith, he said that when he first learned about Gruden’s email, he was surprised that Gruden felt so comfortable airing such views with other industry professionals. “This is not the first racist comment that I’ve heard, and it probably will not be the last. Racism like this comes from the fact that I’m at the same table as they are and they don’t think someone who looks like me belongs,” Smith said. “I’m sorry my family has to see something like this, but I would rather they know. I will not let it define me.” On an ESPN podcast, Smith questioned if the NFL teams are making coaching decisions based on race. He pointed to Gruden’s comments about him (Smith) saying, “It’s a gross caricature that you and I would have expected from the ’50s maybe, or the ’60s.” The NFL football “should be better than this’, said Smith. “We’ve talked about diversity. We have talked about inclusiveness for years. How do we turn the corner and actually match our actions to our words?”
In a later Tweet, Smith said that Gruden’s racist email “confirms that the fight against racism, racist tropes and intolerance is not over. The powerful in our business have to embrace that football itself has to be better, as opposed to making excuses to maintain the status quo…. The news is not about what is said in our private conversation, but what else is said by people who never thought they would be exposed and how they are going to be held to account.”
For his part, Gruden said, “All I can say is that I’m not a racist. I can’t tell you how sick I am. I apologize again to Smith, but I feel good about who I am and what I’ve done my entire life. I apologize for the insensitive remarks. I had no racial intentions with those remarks at all.” Gruden closed his remarks by saying, “I’m not like that at all. I apologize but I don’t want to keep addressing it.”
We seldom hear his name said any more, but Colin Kaepernick tried to warn us several years ago about the institutional racism that prevented him from returning to play in the NFL. We see each year as black candidates are overlooked for head coaching positions and people of color continue to wait for NFL team ownership opportunities. Unfortunately, we have been lulled into a state of unconsciousness that racism does not occur in the NFL.
Gruden’s sudden departure and his troubling emails show that racism, misogynism, and much more is alive, and well, and thriving in one of the least places you would suspect, NFL football. We wonder what and who is in the rest of those emails that the NFL has not released.