NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith says the Jon Gruden scandal “confirms that the fight against racism, racist tropes and intolerance is not over.”
On Friday, The Wall Street Journal reported that Gruden, now Las Vegas Raiders head coach, referred to Smith, who is Black, in a racist way in an email in 2011. Smith responded to the news reports and reaction to it in a string of tweets posted Monday.
“This is not about an email as much as it is about a pervasive belief by some that people who look like me can be treated as less,” Smith wrote. “The email has also revealed why the comments by some with powerful platforms to explain this away are insidious and hypocritical. It is as if there is a need to protect football above the values of equality, inclusion and respect.”
“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,” he added. “I appreciate that (Gruden) reached out to me & I told him that we will connect soon, but make no mistake, 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.”
The email was discovered during an investigation into workplace misconduct allegations made against the Washington Football team. Gruden sent the email to then-Washington Football Team President Bruce Allen during the 2011 lockout. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Monday that the NFL had sent the Raiders other emails for review but that the league was “waiting to see how the team will handle the matter.”
“The email from Jon Gruden denigrating DeMaurice Smith is appalling, abhorrent and wholly contrary to the NFL’s values,” NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy said Friday. “We condemn the statement and regret any harm that its publication may inflict on Mr. Smith or anyone else.”
Gruden issued an apology during post-game remarks after the Raiders lost to the Bears Sunday.
“All I can say is that I’m not a racist,” Gruden said. “I can’t tell you how sick I am. I apologize again to De 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. But… yes, they can… I’m not like that at all. I apologize but I don’t want to keep addressing it.”