Jon Gruden has a situation on his hands, unrelated to Sunday’s game against the Bears. Or anything else that may happen on the football field.
Via Andrew Beaton of the Wall Street Journal, the NFL has found a July 2011 email written by Gruden that uses a racial trope regarding NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith.
“Dumboriss [sic] Smith has lips the size of michellin [sic] tires,” Gruden wrote in the email, per the report.
Gruden told Beaton that he doesn’t recall writing the email, but Gruden apologized for the language in it.
“I’m really sorry,” Gruden said. “I was upset. I used a horrible way of explaining it. . . . I don’t think he’s dumb. I don’t think he’s a liar. I don’t have a racial bone in my body, and I’ve proven that for 58 years.”
Gruden also explained, per Beaton, that Gruden was angry over the lockout, and that he didn’t trust the direction in which the NFLPA was going. Gruden claimed that he has referred to liars as having “rubber lips” and that in this instance he took it “too far.”
“This is not the first racist comment that I’ve heard and it probably will not be the last.” Smith said in a statement issued to Beaton. “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. I’m sorry my family has to see something like this but I would rather they know. I will not let it define me.”
The league reportedly became aware of the email during its investigation of the Washington Football Team. Gruden was communicating with former Washington CEO Bruce Allen, who worked with Gruden in Tampa and Oakland. In 2011, Gruden worked as the main analyst for Monday Night Football.
The WFT investigation resulted in a review of, per the report, more than 650,000 emails. Earlier this week, a summary of that review was presented to Commissioner Roger Goodell. The league said it will be sharing emails regarding Gruden to the Raiders.
“The email from Jon Gruden denigrating DeMaurice Smith is appalling, abhorrent and wholly contrary to the NFL’s values,” the NFL said in a statement issued to Beaton. “We condemn the statement and regret any harm that its publication may inflict on Mr. Smith or anyone else.”
It’s unclear whether and to what extent any discipline can be imposed by the league on Gruden, since the conduct occurred at a time when he wasn’t employed by the league. However, he was working for a broadcast position in an extremely high-profile position. Also, Beaton reports that the league is indeed reviewing the matter for potential discipline.
The Raiders could take action if they so choose. That ultimately would be an issue for owner Mark Davis to resolve.