Raiders' Jon Gruden used racist language in 2011 email about NFLPA chief DeMaruice Smith: report

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Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden reportedly used racist language in a 2011 email describing NFL Players Association chief DeMaurice Smith while he was a commentator at ESPN.

Gruden’s email was obtained by The Wall Street Journal on Friday and included remarks about Smith’s facial features.

“Dumboriss Smith has lips the size of michellin tires,” Gruden wrote in the email, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden stands on the sidelines during the first half of an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins, Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021, in Las Vegas.
(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

“The email from Jon Gruden denigrating DeMaurice Smith is appalling, abhorrent and wholly contrary to the NFL’s values,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said. “We condemn the statement and regret any harm that its publication may inflict on Mr. Smith or anyone else.”

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.

In 2011, Gruden was a commentator for ESPN after his first stint with the Raiders and years after he won a Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The email was sent to then-Washington Football Team president Bruce Allen in the midst of the lockout.

Gruden told The Wall Street Journal he was angry at the time at the direction of the players, which were led by Smith. He claimed in the past he had referred to people who he believed were lying as “rubber lips” and that he took things “too far.”

“I was upset. I used a horrible way of explaining it,” Gruden said.

“I don’t think he’s dumb. I don’t think he’s a liar. I don’t have a racial bone in my body, and I’ve proven that for 58 years.”

Smith told the newspaper Gruden’s remark just reflected how tough it was for Black people in society in general.

“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. 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,” Smith said.

NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith speaks at the annual state of the union news conference in Miami Beach, Florida. The NFL reacted strongly and quickly Friday, Oct. 8, 2021, to a report that Jon Gruden used a racist comment about Smith in an email 10 years ago. A Wall Street Journal story noted that Gruden, then working for ESPN and now coach of the Las Vegas Raiders, referred in a racist way to Smith’s facial features.
(AP Photo/Chris Carlson, File)

“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. I’m sorry my family has to see something like this but I would rather they know. I will not let it define me.”

McCarthy said 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.”

Head coach Jon Gruden of the Las Vegas Raiders looks on in the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on September 19, 2021 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 
(Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

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.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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