Jon Gruden abruptly resigned as head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders after a two-day onslaught of emails were released that exposed racist, misogynistic, and homophobic comments. The messages were sent to former Washington Football Team President Bruce Allen between 2010-2018 and have been recently uncovered during the team’s workplace culture investigation.
When the emails were initially released, it was his offensive comments about NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith that publicly came to light. Gruden specifically stated “Duumboriss Smith has the lips the size of Michelin tires” which was a clear racist attack of a black man although he stated otherwise.
Nonetheless Gruden went on to coach the Raiders versus Bears game on Sunday.
“All I can say is that I’m not racist,” Gruden said following the game. “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.”
Of course, all was forgiven in the sports world and everything went back to business as usual. A simple apology was enough and it was time to move on.
The tune changed when more emails were leaked shortly after that exposed homophobic slurs towards NFL Commissioner Roger Goddell and references to Michael Sam, the first openly gay player drafted by the Rams. He also expressed that Eric Reid should be blackballed for kneeling and did not support female referees in the league.
Suddenly after these emails were leaked, Gruden resigned as head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders.
The most disappointing aspect of this entire situation is that his first email comments about Smith was not enough of a catalyst for Gruden to be dismissed. Then to add insult to injury, he was allowed to save face by turning in his own resignation.
Based on repeated examples, racism is not an intolerable act in the NFL and throughout most organizations. It’s also clear that the goal post moves depending on who commits the act. If a black coach would have been in Gruden’s shoes or even Urban Meyer’s, there would have been swift discipline.
It took disparaging comments against the NFL Commissioner and others before Gruden was held accountable for his actions. It was another reminder to people of color that their feelings don’t matter. A racist comment towards a black, high-level executive can be easily dismissed.
The truth of the matter is, if those other emails were not released, Jon Gruden would still be coaching in this league unscathed. But like the old saying goes, what happens in the dark always comes to light.
Jon Gruden may be gone but this won’t be the last incident of its kind.