Are We Really That Surprised by Jon Gruden?


    On Jon Gruden: Dave Chappelle, who is no stranger to controversy, recently said in his Netflix special, The Closer, “If you listen to what I’m saying, clearly my problem has always been with white people.” This statement is profound in many ways but the focus today is on the listening aspect. Have we not been listening to the NFL? Have we not witnessed the historical “Good Ole Boy” system that exists among the NFL owners and coaches?

    (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

    While the NFL has made some strides in trying to improve its image regarding racial injustice, player safety, gender equality, and LGBTQ equality, it still has a long way to go. Just because Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Mary J. Blige, and Eminem are performing at the 2022 Super Bowl Halftime show, doesn’t mean the NFL is lacking in its fair share of “hateration.”

    John Gruden, who has a storied and lucrative career as an NFL coach, analyst, and more, obviously felt comfortable sending out the emails that have caused his recent resignation. You feel comfortable sending emails like those when you feel you are among peers or liked-minded individuals.

    Let’s revisit how the now-infamous emails were brought to light. The NY Times reviewed a plethora of email exchanges involving Gruden that surfaced as part of an NFL investigation into workplace misconduct at the Washington Football Team. Let’s not forget the Washington Football Team initially refused to change their namesake from “Redskins” before finally caving in. Again, pointing out Gruden’s comfort level by sending emails to former Washington Football Team executive Bruce Allen.

    Among the 650,000 emails that were reviewed included several from Gruden starting in 2010 when he worked for ESPN as a “Monday Night Football” analyst.

    The NY Times reported that the date was from 2010 to 2018. After that, Gruden was hired by the Raiders as the team’s head coach, which is the most lucrative coaching deal in NFL history. On Jan. 18, 2018, Gruden signed a 10-year, $100 million contract that included a no-trade clause, which eliminated the possibility of Gruden being traded for a second time.

    According to The Times, he often referred to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell as “f-t” and “ignorant anti-football p-y”. He also used homophobic slander to describe NFL bosses, coaches, and reporters covering the league. According to reports, Gruden also exchanged emails with Allen and others, including photos of women wearing only bikini bottoms. According to reports, a photo includes two cheerleaders from the Washington football team.

    According to The Times, Gruden and Allen sometimes include Ed Droste, the co-founder of Hooters; Jim McVay, an executive who runs the Outback Bowl; and Nick Reader, the founder of PDQ Restaurant, in an email.

    According to The Times, Drost shared the sexist meme of female NFL referees in 2017, and Gruden replied: “Roger did a good job.” Let us not forget the original email that started all of this where Gruden tried to explain away his racist rhetoric used in the email. On Friday, the Wall Street Journal first reported Gruden had used a racist trope common in anti-Black imagery in an email when referring to NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith during the 2011 lockout.

    “Dumboriss Smith has lips the size of Michelin tires,” he wrote in the email reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

    This sort of behavior should come as no surprise from a league that essentially banned Colin Kaepernick for simply kneeling, which Gruden also criticized in his emails.

    While the NFL did come out later to say they made a mistake in regard to the police brutality Colin was fighting against, they still never said his name or gave a formal apology to the man himself.

    While John Gruden has tried to somewhat apologize for his antics, he has now resigned as the coach of the Las Vegas Raiders. He released the following statement.

    “I have resigned as Head Coach of the Las Vegas Raiders. I love the Raiders and do not want to be a distraction. Thank you to all the players, coaches, staff, and fans of Raider Nation. I’m sorry, I never meant to hurt anyone.”


    Jon has repeated several times that he isn’t a racist and there are some in the league who have come to his defense. When the racist email was the only one on the proverbial table of Jon Gruden insults, here is what former NFL head coach, Tony Dungy had to say. “He said that it wasn’t racial, he was making a comment about DeMaurice Smith, and he basically attacked his character,” Dungy said of Gruden.

    “I will accept that and just say it was an immature way to do it. It wasn’t the right way to do it. But it was 10 years ago. And I’m not going to chalk everything up to racism. I think we accept his apology, move forward and move on.”

    Sportscaster, Mike Tirico, who has a pretty close relationship with Gruden, had this to say, “I was with Jon at that time,” Tirico stated. “Seven years as my partner on Monday Night Football. I probably know Jon better than anybody in the league on a personal level. He said it right, he was ashamed by the comments in the email.

    The comments in the email are wrong. But, my experience kind of parallels Tim Brown, who played for Jon…he said he never experienced or saw anything that would say Jon was racist in any way. That is exactly the experience I had, those seven years of traveling, three days together on the road together every week.”

    While Tony Dungy, Mike Tirico, and even Gruden’s Black players may think he is a standup guy in many regards, we should all know better by now that there are levels of racism, homophobia, misogyny, and every other form of ignorance plaguing our world. Whether Jon Gruden is anything of these things or not, he felt comfortable expressing these feelings in what he considered a safe space. We would be naive to think that safe space only exists in Jon Gruden’s head.

    In a league where 70% of the players are BIPOC, the ownership and coaching ratio is abysmal. According to The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports, “The NFL has two owners of color who both have major ownership interests and are significantly involved in the operations of an NFL club.”

    One owner is Shad Khan, a Pakistani-born American businessman and the principal owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars and became part of NFL ownership in 2012. The Buffalo Bills also have an owner with a significant stake, Kim Pegula, who is an Asian American woman and joined NFL ownership in 2014. The start of 2019, saw seven women as principal owners in the NFL.

    These stats are telling and while Jon Gruden being exposed is major news at the moment, we must not forget to listen to the signs all around us. In the words of the late-great NFL coach Dennis Green, Jon Gruden and the NFL are “exactly who we thought they were.”


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