Jon Gruden reiterated he was not a racist after his Las Vegas Raiders lost their first game since the head coach’s exposure of the head coach’s racist remark in 2011 about players union leader DeMaurice Smith.
Gruden apologized for his “insensitive remarks” when asked after decades of email about the Raiders’ 20-9 loss to the Chicago Bears. A Wall Street Journal report last week found that Gruden, who was then working for ESPN, racially pointed out Smith’s features in an email.
“I’m not a racist,” said Gruden. “I can’t tell you how sick I am. I apologize again to D Smith, but I feel good about who I am and what I’ve done all my life. … I had absolutely no racist intent with these remarks. I am not like that at all. I apologize. I don’t want to go into it any further. “
Gruden ended his press conference after asking a series of questions about the emails and his behavior. He said he was not contacted by the NFL about the comment, but “we’ll see what happens here in the next few days.”
“I’m not going to answer all of these questions today,” said Gruden. “I think I’ve already brought it up. I can’t remember a lot of things that happened 10 or 12 years ago. … I stand here as a guy who doesn’t have a bit of racism in me. “
Raiders quarterback Derek Carr said he was one of many players who were “shocked” when they heard Gruden’s comment a decade ago. Carr said Gruden raised the issue and explained his side of the story in a team meeting.
“He was honest,” said Carr. “He was right at the front and we as a team said, ‘Yes, coach, that was 10 years ago. We have your back and we love you man. ‘ … He told us: ‘Men, learn from my mistake.’ I don’t want to go into details of what he said to us, but when we left the meeting we didn’t take it as it came out. “
The leader of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, a watchdog group that advocates diversity in the NFL, says Gruden’s comment about Smith is an indication of racism across professional sport. Rod Graves, the executive director of the Alliance, also indicated that he should seek discipline for Gruden.
“Jon Gruden’s insensitive remarks about DeMaurice Smith are an indication of the racism that exists at many levels of professional sport,” Allianz chief executive Graves said in a statement. “It also shows that the journey for African Americans and other minorities in sport is riddled with irrepressible mindsets at the highest level.
“We hope that the league and the team will approach this matter with a means that matches those painful words. This is another turning point in a society full of cynical social blinkers where the intellectual skills and leadership of minorities are not respected. When will it end? “
The League is investigating the matter and a person familiar with the investigation told The Associated Press that disciplinary action against Gruden is possible. The person spoke on condition of anonymity as details of a league investigation will not be released.
Gruden received little noticeable reaction from the Raiders’ home crowd when he stepped onto the field at Allegiant Stadium on Sunday, but the crowd grumbled after the Gruden-led offensive scored just 259 yards and a touchdown on Chicago’s defense. The Raiders lost two after starting a 3-0 opening season, their best since Gruden’s return to the franchise in 2018.
The alliance promotes the integration and advancement of minorities in professional football, from coaches to front office and league leadership positions.
Gruden’s comment in an email to then-Washington Football team president Bruce Allen came during the 2011 NFL lockout of the players. Gruden told the newspaper that he was angry about the lockout during the labor negotiations and that he trusted the direction the union does not. He also apologized for the comment, the journal reported.
“Dumboriss Smith has lips the size of Michelin tires,” Gruden wrote in the newspaper-reviewed email.
Raiders owner Mark Davis said in a statement Friday that Gruden’s email does not reflect the team’s standards.
“The contents of an email about DeMaurice Smith from Jon Gruden when he worked for ESPN 10 years ago is troubling and not what the Raiders stand for,” said Davis. “We were first drawn to the email by a reporter yesterday and are reviewing it along with other materials made available to us by the NFL today. We are addressing the matter with Coach Gruden and will not make any further comments at this point. “
During a review of emails regarding workplace misconduct for the Washington Football team that was finalized this summer, “the league was informed of the existence of emails that raised issues beyond the scope of this investigation,” said the NFL – Speaker Brian McCarthy on Friday.
He added that “Jon Gruden’s email denouncing DeMaurice Smith is appalling, horrific and totally contrary to the values of the NFL. We condemn the statement and regret any harm its publication could cause Mr. Smith or others. “
Pro football writer Barry Wilner contributed to this report.
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