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Former Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden returned to the spotlight almost a year since he was seemingly forced to resign from his team for using improper language in emails as an ESPN employee between 2011 and 2018.
It was hard not to feel for the ex-Raiders coach during his appearance at the Little Rock Touchdown Club on Tuesday, where he delivered an emotional response to the backlash he’s received since his email scandal and having to quit his team.
Gruden lost both his job and general approval from the sports media over “racist and homophobic language” found in a mass email leak. He addressed the situation by admitting his mistakes and contending that he is still a good person who believes he can deliver on an opportunity for redemption.
“I’m ashamed about what has come about in these emails, and I’ll make no excuses for it. It’s shameful,” Gruden said.
“But I am a good person. I believe that. I go to church,” Gruden added. “I’ve been married for 31 years. I’ve got three great boys. I still love football. I’ve made some mistakes, but I don’t think anybody in here hasn’t. I just ask for forgiveness, and hopefully I get another shot.”
Gruden also called out his former employer in ESPN for riling up a narrative against him.
“There’s a lot of misunderstanding out there right now,” Gruden shared.
“What you read. What you hear. What you watch on TV. Hell, I worked at ESPN for nine years. I worked hard at that job. I don’t even wanna watch the channel anymore. Because I don’t believe everything is true. And I know a lot of it is just trying to get people to watch.”
In the mass leak were numerous emails sent by Gruden that made fun of the size of NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith’s lips and referenced the drafting of former St. Louis Rams Michael Sam (who came out as gay before getting drafted) with “homophobic remarks.”
Gruden resigned after five games with the Raiders last season (October 11, 2021). He later sued the League for allegedly targeting the coach in handling the email leak. Gruden’s agent Bob LaMonte argues that the NFL put out a “hit job” on Gruden for past remarks about Goodell, criticizing the commissioner.
Raiders players were supportive of Gruden’s character throughout the in-season controversy. Raiders QB Derek Carr said it was important to “hate the sin, not the sinner” in Gruden’s case.
Former LV defensive end Carl Nassib previously shared that when he came out as the first gay active NFL player, Gruden was a source of support as his then-coach.
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Dan Dakich: People can make mistakes, but in this environment you can’t make the kind of mistakes that Jon Gruden made.