10-Year-Old Racist Email From Las Vegas Raiders Coach Jon Gruden Causes Stir in NFL

Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden is in the hot seat after an incredibly racist email he had written a decade ago resurfaced in an NFL investigation.

Barry Wilner of the Associated Press reported that the racist comment made in the email about NFL Players Association leader DeMaurice Smith “drew a strong and quick rebuke Friday [Oct. 8] from the NFL.”

According to Wilner, “Gruden’s comment in an email to then-Washington Football Team President Bruce Allen came during the 2011 lockout of the players by the NFL. Gruden told the newspaper he was angry about the lockout during labor negotiations, and he didn’t trust the direction the union was taking.”

In the email, Gruden, who was working at ESPN at the time, wrote, “Dum­b­oriss Smith has lips the size of Michelin tires.”

Following the discovery of the email, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy issued a statement saying, “the email from Jon Gruden denigrating DeMaurice Smith is appalling, abhorrent and wholly contrary to the NFL’s values. We condemn the statement and regret any harm that its publication may inflict on Mr. Smith or anyone else.”

Although details of the NFL investigation have not yet been made public, sources told AP that “disciplinary action is possible for Gruden.”

“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,” Raiders owner Mark Davis said in a statement. He added that the email does not reflect the standards he has set for his team.

“We were first made aware of the email late [Oct. 7] by a reporter and are reviewing it along with other materials provided to us today by the NFL,” Davis said. “We are addressing the matter with Coach Gruden and will have no further comment at this time.”

Gruden’s email was apparently discovered during a recent NFL review of potential workplace misconduct at the Washington Football Team. During that investigation, McCarthy said, “the league was informed of the existence of emails that raised issues beyond the scope of that investigation.”

“Over the past few months, at commissioner [Roger Goodell’s] direction, senior NFL executives reviewed the content of more than 650,000 emails, including this email which was sent to a club employee,” McCarthy said. “The executives presented a summary of that review to the commissioner and are sharing with Raiders executives’ emails pertaining to coach Gruden.”

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Smith said, “this is not the first racist comment that I’ve heard, and it probably will not be the last. 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.”

Wilner reported that Gruden, for his part, has intensely “defended his résumé on racial equality and inclusion.” However, Gruden also apologized for the comment and said that his email went “too far.”

Related: For more recent diversity and inclusion news, click here.

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