Head coach Jon Gruden of the National Football League’s (NFL) Las Vegas Raiders reportedly resigned from his position Monday night, Fox News reported.
That decision was due to the publication of private emails he sent as long as a decade ago that contained offensive language deemed by some to be racist, misogynistic, and homophobic.
“I have resigned as Head Coach of the Las Vegas Raiders,” Gruden said in a statement. “I love the Raiders and do not want to be a distraction. Thank you to all the players, coaches, staff, and fans of Raider Nation. I’m sorry, I never meant to hurt anyone.”
According to a report Monday from The New York Times, the offensive emails in question were sent between 2010 and 2018 by Gruden to then-Washington Redskins president Bruce Allen at a time when Gruden was employed by ESPN as an analyst/commentator, and was not working in the NFL.
The messages were reportedly discovered and flagged as part of a prior investigation into the Redskins — now known as the Washington Football Team — into allegations of a toxic workplace environment that resulted in changes to that team’s leadership and the end of its prior team name and mascot.
In the emails, Gruden reportedly used derogatory and homophobic slurs to describe NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, was critical of the NFL’s promotion of female referees and gay players, and had used language denigrating the appearance and character of NFL Players Association (NFLPA) executive director DeMaurice Smith that some interpreted as being racist.
NFL labor dispute
In an interview with ESPN, Gruden pointed to the 2011 labor disagreement between players and owners and subsequent lockout and his resultant “bad frame of mind at the time” as the reason for his harshly critical messages about Goodell and Smith and even other team owners.
“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,” he explained. “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.”
Meanwhile, as Gruden has been condemned by the league, Raiders owner Mark Davis, and others, some of his former players, such as wide receiver Tim Brown, have disputed the characterization of Gruden as “racist” and defended him as being a stand-up guy.
The Athletic reported that Gruden himself said in a statement Sunday, “All I can say is I’m not a racist. I can’t tell you how sick I am. I apologize again to De Smith. But I feel good about who I am and what I’ve done my entire life. I apologize again for the insensitive remarks. I had no racial intentions with those remarks at all.”
Hit with questions about the emails during the post-game press conference Sunday, the coach declined to address specifics but told reporters, “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 who takes pride in leading people together and I’ll continue to do that for the rest of my life. And again, I apologize to De Smith and anybody out there that I have offended,” he added.