- ESPN Senior NFL Analyst
- Joined ESPN in 1991
- George Polk Award winner; Twice nominated for Pulitzer Prize
Jon Gruden disparaged NFL commissioner Roger Goodell with a vulgar description in one of several emails that were among the materials provided by the league to the Las Vegas Raiders this past week, Gruden confirmed to ESPN.
Gruden’s emails also included harsh words for a handful of team owners who were involved in the 2011 labor disagreement that led to a lockout.
“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,” the Raiders coach told ESPN on Friday night. “They were keeping players and coaches from doing what they love with a lockout. 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, Florida, 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.”
Gruden did not identify any of the owners he cited in a negative light pertaining to the labor negotiations.
A league official declined to confirm the exact number of emails that were turned over to Raiders owner Mark Davis and team executives. Gruden estimated he was aware of five to seven emails that were flagged by the league.
The league official also would not address the specific vitriol Gruden directed at Goodell. The NFL has said it is exploring disciplinary measures that might be taken against Gruden, although he was not employed by the NFL or any of its teams when the emails were sent.
The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that one of Gruden’s emails included a racist comment in reference to NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith.
Gruden, who was employed by ESPN at the time as the lead analyst for Monday Night Football, said Friday that he is “ashamed I insulted De Smith” and added that he “never had a racial thought” when he sent the email.
Reactions to Gruden’s emailed comments have been wide-ranging both within the Raiders’ locker room and around the league, according to sources. Some people believe there should be repercussions for Gruden, while others believe he should be forgiven, including one Black player who gave him a hug and asked how he could help, according to sources.
Rod Graves, the executive director of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, called for the NFL and the Raiders to respond to Gruden’s comments with “a remedy commensurate with these painful words.”
“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 Sunday morning. “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?”
Gruden said Friday that he has spoken with Davis and expects to speak with him again. Davis said Friday that the content of Gruden’s email was “disturbing” and “not what the Raiders stand for,” while league spokesman Brian McCarthy condemned the email and said it was “appalling, abhorrent and wholly contrary to the NFL’s values.”
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