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Jon Gruden reportedly used racial trope to describe NFLPA chief DeMaurice Smith in 2011

Jon Gruden
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden reportedly used a racial trope to describe NFL Players Association chief DeMaurice Smith in a 2011 email.

The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that an NFL investigation into the Washington Football Team found an email sent by Gruden in 2011, using insensitive language when referring to Smith.

The email, which was sent to the then-president of the Washington Football Team Bruce Allen, came in 2011 when the NFL and NFLPA were stuck in a labor dispute. At the time, Gruden was working as ESPN’s analyst for Monday Night Football and sent the following email to Allen.

“Dumboriss Smith has lips the size of michellin (sic) tires.” 

Jon Gruden in a 2011 email to former Washington Football Team president Bruce Allen regarding NFLPA chief DeMaurice Smith

The language is often used as a racial trope, seen previously in imagery and anti-Black cartoons years ago.

Immediately after the Wall Street Journal released its story, the NFL released a statement regarding Gruden’s language in 2011.

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

NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy on Jon Gruden’s comments in 2011 email, via Associated Press

Jon Gruden apologizes for 2011 email

Gruden, who was hired by the Raiders in 2018, told the WSJ that his email came at a time of frustration during the NFL lockout. He cited frustration over the direction Smith was leading the NFLPA and his language was meant to refer to them as liars with “rubber lips.”

“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.” 

Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden’s apology

At this point, the NFL has not imposed any discipline on Gruden. The investigation came after allegations of misconduct in Washington’s organization, leading to team owner Daniel Snyder being fined $10 million.

Even if they don’t, the Raiders have the option to handle the matter internally.