Jon Gruden came under fire this week for a comment he made about NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith in a 2011 email to then-Washington Football Team president Bruce Allen.
Gruden used an apparent racist stereotype to describe Smith, saying “Dumboriss Smith has lips the size of michellin (sic) tires.” He has since tried to distance himself from those emails, explaining that he uses the term “rubber lips” to call someone a liar. He also said Smith wasn’t the only one he insulted in those communications.
“I was in a bad frame of mind at the time (in 2011), and I called Roger Goodell a (expletive) in one of these emails too,” Gruden told ESPN’s Chris Mortensen on Friday night.
Neither Gruden nor league officials clarified what the Raiders coach called Goodell in the email. Gruden did, however, explain that the NFL lockout was troubling him at the time of his insensitive comments.
“They were keeping players and coaches from doing what they love with a lockout,” Gruden said. “There also were a lot of things being reported publicly about the safety of the sport that I love. I was on a mission with high school football (in the Tampa, Fla., area) during that time, and there were a lot of parents who were scared about letting their kids play football. It just didn’t sit well with me.”
Of course, that doesn’t excuse Gruden for the insults he hurled at Smith, which appeared to be racist in nature. The NFL is exploring potential discipline for Gruden stemming from these comments, which have been met with criticism by many.
Raiders owner Mark Davis called the email’s content “disturbing and not what the Raiders stand for.” He also acknowledged that the team was “addressing the matter with Coach Gruden.”
Meanwhile, Rod Graves, the executive director of the Fritz Pollard Alliance — a group that promotes minority hiring within the NFL — called for the league to respond to the email and “remedy” the situation.
“The insensitive remarks made by Jon Gruden about DeMaurice Smith are indicative of the racism that exists on many levels of professional sports,” Graves said in a statement. “Furthermore, it reveals that the journey for African Americans and other minorities in sports, is riddled with irrepressible mindsets at the highest level. It is our hope that the League and team ownership will address this matter with a remedy commensurate with these painful words. This is yet another inflection point in a society fraught with cynical social blinders, absent of respect for the intellectual capacity and leadership of minorities. When will it end?”
It’s unclear what the NFL’s timeline for deciding on potential discipline will be, but the league strongly condemned Gruden’s words after the email first leaked.
“The email from Jon Gruden denigrating DeMaurice Smith is appalling, abhorrent and wholly contrary to the NFL’s values,” the NFL said in a statement. “We condemn the statement and regret any harm that its publication may inflict on Mr. Smith or anyone else.”