Racial Commentary Surfaces By Jon Gruden About DeMaurice Smith
Las Vegas Raiders coach John Gruden used racist terms in 2011 to denounce DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the NFL Players Association, who is black and now faces opposition within the league to extending his contract.
The email appeared just hours before representatives of the 32 teams were expected to vote on whether to grant Smith a fifth term as union leader without having to hold a general election. Smith was not approved by the Guild Selection Committee earlier this week, in a sign that he faces unusually stiff opposition within his own ranks. Some players accused Smith of being more conciliatory with the league.
There is reason to believe that the owners of the league would prefer it to stay, and such flamboyant email first mentioned By the Wall Street Journal and confirmed by the New York Times, voting is held for players who oppose Smith.
While Smith has been a veteran with the NFL at times, he has been viewed favorably by several of the owners who worked closely with him last season to get players back on the field during the pandemic.
The email was written in 2011 in an exchange between Gruden, who is white and was an ESPN analyst at the time, and Bruce Allen, who was then head of the Washington soccer team.
“Domboris Smith has lips the size of Michelin tires,” Gruden wrote of Smith, who is Black, on the stock exchange.
The email was discovered during a workplace misconduct review of the Washington soccer team that ended this summer. Over the past few months, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has asked league executives to look at more than 650,000 emails, including one that included Groden’s comment. This week, executives provided a summary of that review to Goodell and shared Raiders emails regarding Gruden with him.
“The email from Jon Gruden denigrating Demoris Smith is appalling, abhorrent and wholly contrary to the values of the NFL,” the league’s spokesperson Brian McCarthy said in a statement.
The association declined to say whether Gruden might face disciplinary action.
Smith He said in a statement Groden’s comments are symptoms of the challenges that black Americans face.
“You know that sometimes people say racist things behind your back just like you see people talking and writing about you using highly coded, racist language,” said Smith, who took over as union executive in 2009. It comes from the fact that I’m at the same table as they are and they don’t think someone like me belongs.”
Mark Davis, owner of the raiders, described Gruden’s email as “spam and not what the Raiders are.” He added that the team first became aware of the email on Thursday and is reviewing it “along with other materials provided to us today by the NFL.”
“We are dealing with the matter with Coach Groden and we will have no further comment at this time,” Davis said.
Gruden said he did not remember the email, but admitted that in 2011, he was angry about stalled labor talks between the union and the union which resulted in owners shutting down players.
“Maybe I looked at Dee as the villain,” He told The Athletic on Friday. “And I was really upset because there was going to be a closure.”
He added, “I’ve gone so far as to call him Michelin lips. I’ve never had a racist code in me” and that he “used a horrible way to insult a man.”
Gruden said he called Smith but received no response.
Gruden was employed in 2011 as an analyst on “Monday Night Football,” three years after he left for a head coach position with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In 2018, he signed a 10-year contract to coach the Raiders, when the team was still playing in Oakland, California.