Jon Gruden, who resigned as head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders following reports of homophobic, racist and misogynistic emails, was not even a target of the NFL investigation which led to his rapid downfall.
Neither were the Raiders.
In fact, the questionable emails were uncovered as part of a league investigation into workplace misconduct at the Washington Football Team (WFT), which is concerning to many observers, given the modern National Football League’s efforts to become more inclusive and diverse.
“The question we should be asking is not really [about] the existence of the e-mails, but what is the culture in the NFL, period,” said Jemelle Hill, a contributing writer for The Atlantic.
“And this culture has existed since the very inception of the NFL… It’s about all the people he was emailing. And people realize that he was emailing back and forth… So if this is the pervasive attitude, if this is the group think in the NFL, Black people don’t have a chance of being in leadership in the NFL at all because this is not just about Jon Gruden.”
Raiders general manager Mike Mayock on Wednesday reminded reporters of the franchise’s long history of inclusion.
“The way I grew up the Raiders always stood for diversity,” he said, referring to the leadership of the late Al Davis, the former owner.
“They had the first Latino quarterback, Tom Flores. He also became the second Latino head coach. The first African American head coach was Art Shell. The first female CEO was Amy Trask.”
Mayock said Davis’ son and current owner, Mark, has been through a “tough week” but that Mark Davis – during the general manager’s three-year tenure – has “preached” for diversity and social justice and against domestic violence.
On Tuesday, the attorneys for 40 former Washington Football Team employees whose complaints prompted the league investigation called for the full disclosure of the NFL’s findings.
“It is truly outrageous that after the NFL’s 10-month-long investigation involving hundreds of witnesses and 650,000 documents related to the longtime culture of harassment and abuse at the Washington Football Team, the only person to be held accountable and lose their job is the coach of the Las Vegas Raiders,” the attorneys, Lisa Banks and Debra Katz, said in a statement.
“If the NFL felt it appropriate to release these offensive emails from Jon Gruden … it must also release the findings related to the actual target of that investigation. Our clients and the public at large deserve transparency and accountability. If not, the NFL and Roger Goodell must explain why they appear intent on protecting the Washington Football Team and owner Dan Snyder at all costs.”
The league investigation said Snyder was responsible for the club’s unprofessional and intimidating culture, and failed to establish a respectful work environment.
League spokesman Brian McCarthy said Wednesday that no more investigation details would be released for confidentiality reasons.
Critics had called for Gruden, who had coached the Raiders since the beginning of the 2018 season, to be fired since The Wall Street Journal reported Friday he used racially insensitive language to describe NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith in a 2011 email.
On Monday, the New York Times reported it reviewed more emails and found Gruden denounced women being employed as on-field officials, a team drafting an openly gay player, and the tolerance for national anthem protesters.
Many of the emails, covering a seven-year period, were sent to Bruce Allen, the Washington team’s then-president, who was fired in December 2019, according to the Times.
A league source confirmed the accuracy of the Times’ story to CNN.
Gruden had sent the emails while he worked as an ESPN analyst.
The emails were uncovered by the league and presented to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell last week, the source said. The league last week sent the emails to the Raiders and said it had been waiting for the team to review them with Gruden.
“I love the Raiders and do not want to be a distraction. Thank you to all the players, coaches, staff, and fans of Raider Nation. I’m sorry, I never meant to hurt anyone,” Gruden said in a statement issued by the Raiders on Monday.
In one message, Gruden called NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell a “p*ssy” and a “f*ggot,” according to the Times. In another, he called Michael Sam a “queer” after the player was drafted by the St. Louis Rams in 2014, and Gruden said the league should not have pressured the team’s then coach to draft Sam, the Times reported.
Michael Sam publicly revealed he was gay ahead of the draft; he ultimately never played a regular season game in the league.
NFL veteran Ryan Russell, who came out as bisexual in 2019, told CNN’s “New Day” league efforts to make the sport more inclusive should not stop with Gruden’s resignation.
“Jon Gruden wasn’t sending those emails to himself. There were other people that knew about it,” Russell said. “There were other people that were involved across the league and this went unchecked for years, so no, resigning is not accountability. It’s not enough.”
NFL reporter Ian Rapoport said Gruden lost credibility within the Raiders locker room, especially given Carl Nassib – who became the first active NFL player in league history to announce he is gay earlier this year – plays for Las Vegas.