Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden is dealing with the backlash from a racially insensitive email he sent in 2011 regarding the executive director of the NFL Players Association, DeMaurice Smith.
“Dumboriss Smith has lips the size of michellin tires,” Gruden wrote, according to the WSJ.
The email has caused an uproar in the NFL community and online, as it has been deemed as racist by many, including by the subject of the email.
“This is not the first racist comment that I’ve heard and it probably will not be the last,” Smith told the Journal. “This is a thick-skin job for someone with dark skin, just like it always has been for many people who look like me and work in corporate America. You know people are sometimes saying things behind your back that are racist just like you see people talk and write about you using thinly coded and racist language.”
“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.”
Following the Raiders 20-9 loss to the Chicago Bears on Sunday, Gruden and his players were asked about the email.
“All I can say is I’m not a racist,” Gruden said when asked if there were any other “racial” remarks that could be published. “I can’t tell you how sick I am. I apologize again to De Smith. But I feel good about who I am, what I’ve done my entire life. And I apologize for the insensitive remarks I had. I had no racial intentions with those remarks at all. … I’m not like that at all. But I apologize.”
“I can’t remember a lot of the things that transpired 10 or 12 years ago, but I stand here in front of everybody apologizing. I don’t have an ounce of racism in me. I’m a guy that takes pride in leading people together. And I’ll continue to do that the rest of my life. And, again, I apologize to De Smith and anybody out there I have offended.”
Gruden said that he had not yet heard from the NFL regarding the 2011 email.
His players appeared to defend him, with running back Josh Jacobs saying that “people grow.”
“I’ve been around this guy for three years now; I’ve never felt a certain type of way about him,” Jacobs said. “He’s never rubbed me a certain way, that type of way. I mean, what he said is what he said at the end of the day too. But I mean, I definitely trust him. I mean, it was 10 years ago. People grow.”
Linebacker Denzel Perryman said he “could care less.”
“I let it go as soon as we walked out of the meeting room,” Perryman said. “I wasn’t focused on that. Still not focused on it. So, I mean, I don’t know what he said. I could care less, honestly. I don’t know how many years ago it was, but my main focus this week was on the Bears, not whatever he had going on.”
Following the Journal’s report on Friday, both the NFL and Raiders owner Mark Davis put out statements condemning the email.
“The email from Jon Gruden denigrating DeMaurice Smith is appalling, abhorrent and wholly contrary to the NFL’s values,” a league spokesperson said. “We condemn the statement and regret any harm that its publication may inflict on Mr. Smith or anyone else.”
Davis said the organization was reviewing the situation.
“The content of an email regarding DeMaurice Smith from Jon Gruden when he worked for ESPN 10 years ago is disturbing and not what the Raiders stand for. We were first made aware of the email late yesterday by a reporter and are reviewing it along with other materials provided to us today by the NFL,” Davis said in a statement. “We are addressing the matter with Coach Gruden and will have no further comment at this time.”
Gruden told the Journal that he was upset at the time of the email, as he didn’t like how the players were going about the negotiations with the league.
“I was upset,” Gruden said. “I used a horrible way of explaining it.”
“I don’t think he’s dumb. I don’t think he’s a liar,” Gruden said. “I don’t have a racial bone in my body, and I’ve proven that for 58 years.”
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