A Wall Street Journal report broke on Friday chronicling a potentially insensitive racial remark made by Raiders head coach Jon Gruden regarding NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith.
According to the report, Gruden sent out an email to then-Washington Redskins general manager Bruce Allen, mocking Smith in the midst of an impending league lockout imposed by the owners.
Gruden allegedly sent out an email containing the following message: “Dumboriss Smith has lips the size of michellin tires,” which has spawned outrage due to its underlying criticism of Smith’s appearance as a Black man. The email was traced to 2011 when Gruden was working as a sportscaster for the Monday Night Football booth on ESPN.
In the report, Gruden admitted to not recalling if he had sent out the email but apologized for any potential damages made to Smith. He added that calling people “rubber lips” was his way of mocking someone, devoid of any racial undertones or intentionality.
“I don’t think he’s dumb. I don’t think he’s a liar,” responded Gruden. “I don’t have a racial bone in my body, and I’ve proven that for 58 years.”
Smith responded by seemingly calling Gruden a racist, alleging that Gruden’s message was directed at him for being a Black man in a White man’s position.
Gruden signed a 10-year, $100 million deal in 2018 to become the Raiders’ head coach after his first stint between 1998-2001. He went on to coach the Tampa Bay Buccaneers between 2002-08, winning Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2003.
His long-time status as a “players’ coach” has never been criticized for bearing underlying racist views, but his role will now be subject to potentially serious discipline as the League ensured that it will punish the head coach.
ESPN NFL reporter Adam Schefter tweeted out the NFL’s official response to Gruden’s email, calling the statement “appalling, abhorrent and wholly contrary to the NFL’s values.” The statement condemned Gruden and apologized to Smith for the insensitive remark.
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