DeMaurice Smith: Jon Gruden email scandal confirms 'fight against racism' not over

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NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith said Monday the controversy around Jon Gruden’s racist email from 2011, which was uncovered last week, was more than just some words.

Smith took to Twitter to say Gruden’s words and the reaction to the controversy were more about how Black people in general get treated in a lesser manner than everyone else.

“The email from Jon Gruden – and some of the reaction to it – confirms that the fight against racism, racist tropes and intolerance is not over. This is not about an email as much as it is about a pervasive belief by some that people who look like me can be treated as less,” Smith started off.

NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith speaks at the annual state of the union news conference in Miami Beach, Florida. 
(AP Photo/Chris Carlson, File)

“The email has also revealed why the comments by some with powerful platforms to explain this away are insidious and hypocritical. It is as if there is a need to protect football above the values of equality, inclusion and respect.”

“The powerful in our business have to embrace that football itself has to be better, as opposed to making excuses to maintain the status quo.”

Gruden has said he has been trying to reach out to Smith to apologize. Smith said he received the Las Vegas Raiders’ coach’s messages.

“I appreciate that he reached out to me & I told him that we will connect soon, but make no mistake, the news is not about what is said in our private conversation, but what else is said by people who never thought they would be exposed and how they are going to be held to account,” Smith tweeted.

Gruden addressed the saga Sunday, after the Raiders’ loss to the Chicago Bears.

“All I can say is I’m not a racist. I can’t tell you how sick I am. I apologize again to DeMaurice Smith. But I feel good about who I am and what I’ve done my entire life. I apologize again for the insensitive remarks. I had no racial intentions with those remarks at all,” he said, via The Athletic.

“I’m not going to answer all these questions today. … I think I’ve addressed it already. I can’t remember a lot of the things that transpired 10 or 12 years ago. But I stand here in front of everybody apologizing. I know I don’t have an ounce of racism in me. I’m a guy who takes pride in leading people together, and I’ll continue to do that for the rest of my life. And again, I apologize to De Smith and anybody out there that I have offended.”

Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden reacts during the second half of an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns, Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020, in Cleveland.
(AP Photo/Ron Schwane)

The email about Smith was first obtained by The Wall Street Journal. The report said the email was sent to then-Washington Football Team president Bruce Allen in the midst of the lockout.

Gruden wrote in the chain: “Dumboriss Smith has lips the size of Michelin tires.”

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told the The Wall Street Journal during a review of emails regarding the Washington Football Team’s own workplace misconduct investigation the NFL was “informed of the existence of emails that raised issues beyond the scope of that investigation.”

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell added: “Over the past few months, at the commissioner’s direction, senior NFL executives reviewed the content of more than 650,000 emails, including this email which was sent to a club employee. Earlier this week, the executives presented a summary of that review to the commissioner and are sharing with Raiders executives emails pertaining to coach Gruden.”

Rod Graves, executive director of Fritz Pollard Alliance, a nonprofit whose mission is “to champion diversity in the National Football League,” said in a statement that the NFL and the Raiders need to respond to Gruden’s remarks with a “remedy commensurate with these painful words.”

Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden talks with quarterback Derek Carr (4) during the second half against the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium.
(Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports)

“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. “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?”

Raiders team owner Mark Davis also condemned Gruden.

“The content of an email regarding DeMaurice Smith from Jon Gruden when he worked for ESPN 10 years ago is disturbing and not what the Raiders stand for. We were first made aware of the email late yesterday by a reporter and are reviewing it along with other materials provided to us today by the NFL. We are addressing the matter with Coach Gruden and will have no further comment at this time,” Davis said in a statement.

Las Vegas lost Sunday, 20-9.

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