DeMaurice Smith: Jon Gruden email, some reaction to it confirms fight against racism is not over

NFL: FEB 02 Super Bowl LI - NFLPA
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Three days after the 2011 email from Raiders coach Jon Gruden containing a racist trope regarding NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith emerged, the situation has begun to blow over, as such situations often do.

On Monday night, Smith posted a thread on Twitter addressing the email and the reaction to it.

“The email from Jon Gruden — and some of the reaction to it — confirms that the fight against racism, racist tropes and intolerance is not over,” Smith said. “This is not about an email as much as it is about a pervasive belief by some that people who look like me can be treated as less.

“The email has also revealed why the comments by some with powerful platforms to explain this away are insidious and hypocritical. It is as if there is a need to protect football above the values of equality, inclusion and respect.

“The powerful in our business have to embrace that football itself has to be better, as opposed to making excuses to maintain the status quo. I appreciate that [Gruden] reached out to me & I told him that we will connect soon, but make no mistake, the news is not about what is said in our private conversation, but what else is said by people who never thought they would be exposed and how they are going to be held to account.”

As PFT’s Myles Simmons explained on Friday night, Gruden undermined his own apology by insisting that he has no “racist bone.” It’s possible for people who aren’t racist to say racist things. Regardless of whether it was a private comment, regardless of whether it happened 10 years ago, regardless of whether it shouldn’t have been the one page leaked from the 650,000 emails uncovered by the Washington Football Team investigation, and regardless of whether the NFL specifically leaked the document to help save Smith’s job just hours before a critical vote was held on his future, the comment was made. It is, as they say, what it is. Gruden may not be a racist, but he made a racist comment, used a racist trope that does not fall into the category of public comments and jokes that were OK a decade ago but are problematic now, like some of the contents of an average episode of The Office.

The question now becomes what will the Industrial Football Complex do about it? Smith fears that the desire to protect football will overcome the values that football professes to honor. Once the final resolution emerges, Smith and everyone else will be able to assess whether the words the NFL utters when convenient are just words, or something more than that.