Last week a Wall Street Journal story noted that Jon Gruden, now head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders, while working for ESPN in 2011, referred in a racist way about NFL players union leader DeMaurice Smith facial features in an email. His written email comment, “Dumboriss Smith has lips the size of Michelin tires,” was revealed by the newspaper.
“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.”
In 2011 Gruden was employed by ESPN as the lead analyst for Monday Night Football. He was head coach at Tampa Bay from 2001-2009, and in 2003 became the youngest coach, at the time, to win a Super Bowl.
On Sunday, after his Raiders team lost their first game since the revealing of Gruden’s racial remarks in the 2011 email, he was questioned again about his insensitive remarks, which he has apologized for several times since Friday.
“I’m not going to answer all these questions today,” Gruden said. “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 that takes pride in leading people together, and I’ll continue to do that for the rest of my life.”
“All I can say is I’m not a racist,” Gruden said. “I can’t tell you how sick I am. I apologize again to De Smith. But I feel good about who I am, what I’ve done my entire life. And I apologize for the insensitive remarks. I had no racial intentions with those remarks at all. … I’m not like that at all. But I apologize.”
Gruden ended his news conference after the game Sunday and said “I have not been contacted by the NFL about the remark but we’ll wait and see what happens here in the next few days.”
Raiders owner Mark Davis said in a statement on Friday that Gruden’s email does not reflect the team’s standards. “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 (Friday) 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.”
Gruden had addressed the players in a Friday morning meeting, letting them know an article was coming out in the Wall Street Journal reporting on the incident. Several players defended Gruden’s character including his former player, Hall of Famer Tim Brown, who played for Gruden with the Raiders from 1998 to 2001 and with the Tampa Bay buccaneers in 2004 saying:
“Never ever have I gotten anything from him that made me even pause to think about, ‘Hmmm, that didn’t come of right,'” Brown told SiriusXM NFL Radio. “If you know Gruden, if you know anything about him or if you’ve been around him, especially the length of time that I’ve been knowing him, you would have gotten the hint that, ‘This guy’s not right. There’s something not right about him.’ And there’s no way I would have ever thought that.”