Gruden fired, but the problem still remains

Jon Gruden -Photo courtesy of Fox Sports

Gruden fired, but the problem still remains
October 21
08:59 2021

An email scandal resulting from the investigation into the Washington Football Team (WFT) has cost Jon Gruden his job as head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders.

Gruden was essentially forced to resign following the release of emails he sent to former WFT President Bruce Allen from 2010 through 2018. NFL officials uncovered the emails as part of the workplace misconduct investigation into Allen. Gruden was not the focus, as he was not in the league at the time.

Initially Gruden came under fire for his racist comments on NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith in a 2011 email to Allen. In the email, Gruden says “Dumboriss Smith has lips the size of michellin (sic) tires.”

When I first heard those comments from Gruden, I was unsure how I felt about his comments. We are in the thick of cancel culture and I did not want to have a knee jerk reaction, but instead wanted to give it a day or two. After sitting on the comments and putting myself in place of Smith, I was still offended.

I wouldn’t quite say I was outraged, but it just didn’t sit well with me. For me, it was the emails that were not released that I was intrigued with. I would bet my next paycheck that Gruden is not the only person that said something racist in those 650,000 emails. Gruden tried to walk back his comments in an article with The Athletic where he said he used “rubber lips” as a way to describe someone as a liar.

“I do know this, at that point of my life, 121 years ago or 10 years ago, I am sure I vented a little bit with my friends about certain things,” Gruden told The Athletic after the email became public. “I know at the time the collective bargaining agreement was changing, there was a lockout going on or the threat of a lockout, if I can remember. I probably looked at (Smith) as the villain. And I was really upset. I was really upset that there was going to be a lockout. I felt that Gene Upshaw would never have allowed that to happen.

“I didn’t feel like we were getting the truth. I refer to guys when I see them lying – and I can tell they’re lying – I refer to them as ‘rubber lips.’ I went too far calling him the Michelin lips. I never had a blade of racism in me. I was just pissed and used a terrible way to insult a guy.

I called (Smith), I have reached out to him and I haven’t heard back from him yet, but I will continue to try.”

I sincerely hope that Gruden does not think this excuse was going to fly with anyone, especially those of us in the African American community. There are many other synonyms for someone being a liar and I have never heard the term ‘rubber lips.’ Granted, I have not been to every corner of the country, I am just saying I have never heard the term used in that context.

Does Gruden really think people are that stupid to just take that statement as anything other than racism? I have never referred to anyone’s physical characteristics when calling them a liar. At least Smith took the high road, which is more than what I could say I would do in the same situation.

“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,” Smith said in a Twitter post. “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. 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.  

“I appreciate that (Gruden) reached out to me (and) 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.”

What bothered me most about this entire situation is that this story did not gain much traction off of the email about Smith, but once other emails came to light about the homophobic and transphobic community, he was then forced to resign. So, it makes me wonder if those emails about the LBGTQ community never came to light, would Gruden still have his job if he was only labeled a racist? Makes you think, doesn’t it?

I am not saying one ignorant email is worse than the other, but they should be held to the same standard, don’t you think? Why wasn’t his resignation requested after the racist comments were revealed? We are all searching for equality, so I think regardless of what community is under attack, they should all be treated with the same respect.

It was weird that I watched the new Dave Chappelle a day before the second round of emails were leaked. In that special he brought up a situation about Da Baby, a hip-hop artist, who reportedly killed a man in self-defense and also made derogatory comments about the LGBTQ community.  

Chappell’s point was that Da Baby could kill a man in Walmart and not hurt his image at all, but if he makes a comment against the LGBTQ community, then his career would be damaged forever. While the situations between Gruden and Da Baby are not exactly similar, Chappelle does have a point.

It seems we have gotten to the point where the “cancel culture” has prioritized the LGBTQ community above all else. Racism, sexism, homophobic comments, transphobic comments, and sexism are all bad and one is not more deplorable than the other, because they are all bad in my book.  

I am wondering who chose to only single Gruden out of all of those emails and why they only leaked those. It seems that Gruden is being the fall guy for something else more sinister. Dan Snyder has been the most hated man in D.C. for years and I am not sure there is something else going on here.

If there is something else that is more despicable than what Gruden said in his emails, then it needs to be exposed as well. Gruden should not take all of the blame if there is in fact something else going on in those emails.

This exposes a bigger problem that I think is a league-wide problem. Although the NFL is over 70% Black, the percentage of men that hold the power – i.e. front office or ownership – is overwhelmingly white. That ‘good ole boys club’ seems to have conversations and feelings that others outside the club are not privy to.

I’m sure if the NFL pulled emails from all 32 teams, the emails from Gruden would not be the only racist ones to come to light. When you have men in power that are predominantly older white males, it is bound to be some racism, misogyny and sexism somewhere. Sorry to say, but that is what America was built on.

I think Gruden needed to lose his job, based on what he said. However, those in power need to take a deeper look into the conversations going on around the league. We need to remember that representation matters, not only on the field, but also in the front office and ownership.

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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