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NFL reportedly considering discipline of Raiders' Jon Gruden for racist 2011 comment about NFLPA leader

Sporting News logo Sporting News 10/9/2021 Tom Gatto

The NFL will explore possible discipline against Raiders coach Jon Gruden for using a racial stereotype to disparage NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith in a 2011 e-mail, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

Gruden sent the e-mail July 21, 2011, to Bruce Allen, who worked with Gruden during the coach's first stint with the Raiders, the Journal reported. At the time, Allen was president of the Washington Football Team and Gruden was the lead analyst for ESPN's "Monday Night Football." Gruden, frustrated with Smith and the players for being reluctant to ratify a new collective bargaining agreement and end the owners' lockout of the players, wrote to Allen, "Dumboriss Smith has lips the size of michellin (sic) tires."

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The league discovered the e-mail during its recent investigation of alleged workplace misconduct by Washington executives including Allen, the Journal reported.

"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 to the Journal. "We condemn the statement and regret any harm that its publication may inflict on Mr. Smith or anyone else."

Gruden told the Journal that the lips reference was based on an expression about people lying ("rubber lips," was how he put it to reporter Andrew Beaton) and not meant as a racist statement about Black people's facial features.

"I was upset," an apologetic Gruden told Beaton. "I used a horrible way of explaining it."

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"I don't think (Smith is) dumb. I don't think he’s a liar," Gruden, 58, was quoted as saying. "I don't have a racial bone in my body, and I've proven that for 58 years."

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Smith, who is Black, reacted strongly.

"This is not the first racist comment that I've heard and it probably will not be the last. This is a thick skin job for someone with dark skin, just like it always has been for many people who look like me and work in corporate America,” Smith said. "You know people are sometimes saying things behind your back that are racist just like you see people talk and write about you using thinly coded and racist language."

"Racism like this comes from the fact that I'm at the same table as they are and they don’t think someone who looks like me belongs," Smith added.

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The Journal reported the NFL will share Gruden-related e-mails from the WFT investigation with the Raiders. The team has not yet commented on the story. Allen has not commented on the report either. The Raiders will play the Bears in Las Vegas on Sunday.

Smith reportedly was in danger of being ousted by the NFLPA. The Washington Post reported Wednesday that player representatives were to vote Friday on whether to extend Smith's contract beyond 2022 or open up the election of an executive director to other candidates next year. NFLPA president J.C. Tretter announced after the vote that the reps voted to retain Smith for another term, with Smith telling the players it would be his last term as their leader.


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