Jon Gruden, coach of the NFL’s Las Vegas Raiders, sent an email with racially insensitive language referring to DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the NFL Players Association, in an email a decade ago, according to a report.
The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that Gruden, who was a broadcaster with ESPN in 2011, sent an email on July 21, 2011, to Bruce Allen, president of the Washington Football Team. The NFL and the players union were in the middle of trying to resolve a lockout that threatened the 2011 season.
Gruden, who was head coach at Tampa Bay during the early 2000s when Allen was the Buccaneers’ general manager, wrote in the email that “Dumboriss Smith has lips the size of michellin (sic) tires,” according to the newspaper, which reviewed the email.
Gruden, who was the lead analyst for “Monday Night Football,” apologized and told ESPN he did not recall writing the email. He added that he has routinely used the term “rubber lips” to “refer to a guy I catch as lying ... he can’t spit it out.”
“I’m ashamed I insulted De Smith,” Gruden told ESPN. “I never had a racial thought when I used it. ... I’m embarrassed by what’s out there. I certainly never meant for it to sound that bad.”
The email came to light during the NFL’s investigation into workplace misconduct at the Washington Football Team.
The league was “informed of the existence of emails that raised issues beyond the scope of that investigation,” The Wall Street Journal reported.
Gruden told newspaper that he had been angry at the time because of the lockout and did not trust Smith’s leadership as NFLPA chief.
“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. I don’t have a racial bone in my body, and I’ve proven that for 58 years.”
In a statement to The Wall Street Journal, Smith said Gruden’s comments were 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,” Smith said in the statement. “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 added. “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 NFL and Raiders both issued statements condemning the email. It was unclear whether Gruden would face disciplinary action from the team or from Raiders owner Mark Davis.
“The email from Jon Gruden denigrating DeMaurice Smith is appalling, abhorrent and wholly contrary to the NFL’s values,” NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy told ESPN. “We condemn the statement and regret any harm that its publication may inflict on Mr. Smith or anyone else.”
In a statement Friday afternoon, Davis called the email “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. “We are addressing the matter with Coach Gruden and will have no further comment at this time.”
Gruden led the Raiders from 1998 until he was traded to Tampa Bay after the 2001 season, ESPN reported. He led the Buccaneers to a victory in Super Bowl XXXVII against the Raiders.
Gruden was fired after the 2008 season and then joined ESPN as an analyst on “Monday Night Football.”
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