Jon Gruden resigned Monday as the coach of the Las Vegas Raiders football team hours after The New York Times detailed emails in which he had made homophobic and misogynistic remarks, following an earlier report of racist statements about a union leader.
Gruden had casually and frequently unleashed misogynistic and homophobic language over several years to denigrate people around the game and to mock some of the league’s momentous changes.
He denounced the emergence of women as referees, the drafting of a gay player and the tolerance of players protesting during the playing of the national anthem, according to emails reviewed by The Times.
In the emails, Gruden called the league’s commissioner, Roger Goodell, a “faggot” and a “clueless anti football pussy” and said that Goodell should not have pressured Jeff Fisher, then the coach of the Rams, to draft “queers,” a reference to Michael Sam, a gay player chosen by the team in 2014.
"Earlier this evening, The New York Times uncovered a trail of emails dating back seven years, in which Jon Gruden had a clean sweep of offending NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, women, gays, minorities, all sorts of people."
— ESPN (@espn) October 12, 2021
In numerous emails during a seven-year period ending in early 2018, Gruden criticized Goodell and the league for trying to reduce concussions and said that Eric Reid, a player who had demonstrated during the playing of the national anthem, should be fired. In several instances, Gruden used a homophobic slur to refer to Goodell and offensive language to describe some N.F.L. owners, coaches and journalists who cover the league.
Gruden also criticized President Obama during his re-election campaign in 2012, as well as then-Vice President Joe Biden, whom Gruden called a “nervous clueless pussy.” He used similar words to describe Goodell and DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the N.F.L. Players Association.
The emails provide an uncensored look into the culture of one N.F.L. circle of peers, where white male decision makers feel comfortable sharing pornographic images, jocularly sharing homophobic language and degrading anyone who doesn’t look or act like them.
Their banter flies in the face of the league’s public denouncements of racism and sexism and its promises to be more inclusive amid criticism for not listening to the concerns of Black players, who make up about 70 percent of rosters. The N.F.L. has in the past struggled to discipline personnel who have committed acts of domestic violence and been condemned for failing to adequately address harassment of women, including N.F.L. cheerleaders.
As it pores through 650,000 emails, the NFL should round up the recipients of Gruden’s rants and out them as well. Tell us who they are. Did they know that Gruden held these views? Did they pass them off, as Donald Trump did during his presidential campaign, as “locker room talk”? People like Gruden need an audience. They thrive on friends and cronies who laugh at the racist jokes, who egg them on, who provide aid and comfort.
The reality is that the NFL, for all of its attempts to move forward, has been revealed as a regressive organization populated by white men who hold views about race and power that are antithetic to progress and enlightenment.
Trust me, Gruden is not an outlier or “one bad apple.” No, Gruden is a microcosm of the NFL and just happened to be the one stupid enough to put his hatred in print.
I’m not sure which is scarier: the fact that the Gruden has been in a position of power for two decades while having this hatred on his mind, or that he had half the nation fooled into thinking he was this funny lovable character who happened to coach and broadcast NFL games.
Gruden checked all the boxes:
Yet he was able to stay under the radar for decades and only got caught because he got too comfortable being his true self.
My question is to whom was Gruden writing. Who was his audience? Were they league executives, powerful entities in other areas in the sports and broadcast industry? This could explain why former San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick was blackballed.
The people who enabled Gruden, who laughed at his racist jokes, guffawed and winked at his anti-gay quips, are still around. So why is it important that we root out these enablers? These enablers are in positions of power and control, making important decisions about who gets hired, who gets promoted, and which initiatives are launched.
We need to know who these people are. How do we flush them out?
As for the 11 years that have passed since the recovered emails were revealed, in the war on racism, there is no statute of limitations. War criminals should be sought out and punished.
Jon Gruden is gone. Now the NFL should go after his enablers.