The Wall Street Journal on Friday unearthed a decade old email where Jon Gruden used a racist trope to insult NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith.
“Dumboriss [sic] Smith has lips the size of michellin [sic] tires,” Gruden wrote to then-Washington Football Team CEO Bruce Allen.
Gruden said he did not recall writing the email, but did not deny sending it.
Working for ESPN at the time, Gruden said he was angry over the ongoing NFL lockout at the time and said the reference had to do with him referring to liars as having "rubber lips," not as part of a longstanding anti-Black trope.
“I’m really sorry,” Gruden said. “I was upset. I used a horrible way of explaining it. . . . 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.”
“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,” Raiders owner Mark Davis said in a statement on Friday. “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.”
The WSJ report said Gruden could face discipline for the comment.
“You may have seen media reports today regarding a July 2011 email from Jon Gruden, who was then an employee of ESPN and is now the head coach of the Raiders,” the NFL said in a league-wide memo issued Friday. “The email made inappropriate and offensive references to NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith.
“These references to DeMaurice Smith in the email were denigrating, appalling, abhorrent, and contrary to our values of respect and inclusivity. We whole heartedly condemn these comments.
“We would like to remind everyone that we take our NFL values seriously. Our HR department and our leaders are always available to support anyone who feels that these values have been compromised.”
The report dropped on the same night Smith was re-elected to serve another term as the NFLPA's chief executive. Smith has been the NFLPA's executive director since 2009.
“This is not the first racist comment that I’ve heard and it probably will not be the last.” Smith told the WSJ. “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.: