Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden confessed he disparaged NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and criticized several team owners in a series of emails 10 years ago, an admission made during an interview with his former employer, ESPN.
Gruden acknowledged sending the emails in 2011 amid a labor dispute that led to a lockout. The emails, sent at a time he was the game analyst on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football,” are being scrutinized following reports Friday that he made a racial comment to describe DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the NFL Players Association, in one message.
“I was in a bad frame of mind at the time [in 2011], and I called Roger Goodell a [expletive] in one of these emails too,” the Raiders coach told ESPN on Friday night for a report that aired Sunday. “They were keeping players and coaches from doing what they love with a lockout. There also were a lot of things being reported publicly about the safety of the sport that I love. I was on a mission with high school football during that time, and there were a lot of parents who were scared about letting their kids play football. It just didn’t sit well with me.”
Gruden did not identify the owners he criticized in regard to the labor negotiations. Regarding Goodell, ESPN said Gruden referred to him with a “vulgar description.”
ESPN reported Raiders owner Mark Davis and team executives were in possession of the disparaging emails, and Gruden said he knew there were at least five of them. Davis said Friday that the content of the email that referenced Smith was “disturbing.”
Gruden has acknowledged he insulted Smith, saying he “ashamed” but “never had a racial thought” at the time he wrote the message.
The NFL is weighing possible disciplinary actions against Gruden, even though he was out of the NFL at the time.
Rod Graves, the executive director of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, told ESPN that Gruden’s words about Smith, who is Black, warrant punishment.
“The insensitive remarks made by Jon Gruden about DeMaurice Smith are indicative of the racism that exists on many levels of professional sports,” Graves said in a statement Sunday morning. “Furthermore, it reveals that the journey for African Americans and other minorities in sports, is riddled with irrepressible mindsets at the highest level. It is our hope that the League and team ownership will address this matter with a remedy commensurate with these painful words. This is yet another inflection point in a society fraught with cynical social blinders, absent of respect for the intellectual capacity and leadership of minorities. When will it end?”
Gruden, 58, worked in the ESPN booth from the 2009 through 2017 seasons. Prior to ESPN, he coached the then-Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, leading the latter to their first Super Bowl title following the 2002 season, before rejoining the Raiders in 2018.
He has a career 117-111 record, including 3-1 this season. The Raiders host the Chicago Bears (2-2) on Sunday.
–Field Level Media