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The NFL has a lot to answer to amid Jon Gruden email scandal

NFL: Oakland Raiders at Los Angeles Chargers
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL would like us to somehow believe that it’s now an open book following the resignation of Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden.

Gruden resigned earlier in the week after a trove of emails showed him displaying racist, homophobic and misogynistic tendencies.

Said emails were uncovered in a larger investigation into workplace misconduct surrounding the Washington Football Team and then-president Bruce Allen as well as team owner Daniel Snyder. These emails were also sent to Mr. Allen, dating back as far as 10 years ago — a clear indication that some in the know had full understanding of Gruden’s not-so-public archaic world view.

The questions are now vast and surround several different areas of issues involving the NFL under the leadership of Commissioner Roger Goodell.

NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith, who was on the receiving end of racist comments from Mr. Gruden in the initial emails that led to the head coach’s demise touched on that a bit recently. Primarily, the questions regarding communications between Washington Football Team’s previous brass and others around the NFL.

“We have had communications with the league, and the NFLPA plans to request that the NFL release the rest of the emails,” Smith said in an interview one day after Gruden’s firing.

There’s roughly 650,000 emails that the NFL has in its possession stemming from its recently-concluded investigation into the Washington Football Team misconduct scandal. For some reason, it opted to leak the emails involving Gruden while keeping everything else hidden.

That’s the major backdrop here, and it involves a lot more than the now-embarrassed former Raiders head coach.

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NFL has to answer questions amid Jon Gruden scandal

nfl commissioner rodger goodell, raiders owner mark davis
Oct 4, 2021; Inglewood, California, USA; NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell walks along the sidelines as Las Vegas Raiders owner Mark Davis (right) looks on before a game between the Los Angeles Chargers and the Raiders at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
  • Who knew about the Jon Gruden emails dating back a decade?
  • What does the NFL plan to do with those who knew about the contents of said emails?
  • Why didn’t the league make public the findings of its investigation into the Washington Football Team?
  • Why pick and choose which emails were leaked to the public?
  • Are others around the NFL involved in said scandal?
  • How does this impact the Colin Kaepernick collusion case and the NFL settling out of court?
  • Is the NFL going to keep these emails hidden as a way to blackmail certain individuals around the league?

These are just seven examples in a laundry list of questions that the NFL should be forced to answer to before it can somehow conclude that Gruden was the bad apple. The lone gunman. Perhaps, the NFL’s version of the Magic Bullet Theory.

Remember, the emails in question that led to his firing included text exchanges of Washington Football Team cheerleaders in compromising situations — one of the things that was at the heart of the initial investigation into the NFL franchise.

“The allegations raised by (former cheerleader Emily) Applegate and others — running from 2006 to 2019 — span most of Snyder’s tenure as owner and fall into two categories: unwelcome overtures or comments of a sexual nature, and exhortations to wear revealing clothing and flirt with clients to close sales deals,” A July 2020 report from the Washington Post noted. “Among the men accused of harassment and verbal abuse are three former members of Snyder’s inner circle and two longtime members of the personnel department.”

As for Gruden’s emails, they were not limited solely to misogyny and racism. The former head coach called Goodell a “fa**ot” for his handling of the 2011 work stoppage and referred to former NFLer Michael Sam as a “q*eer.” A former star at Missouri, Sam came out immediately ahead of the 2014 NFL Draft and did not play a single regular-season game in the league.

“We admire Michael Sam’s honesty & courage. Michael is a football player. Any player with ability and determination can succeed in NFL,” the league said in a statement back in 2014 after Sam came out.

Despite being a former SEC Defensive Player of the Year and recording 10 sacks in his final collegiate season, Sam was a seventh-round pick that April and never played a single regular-season game. Was this all about talent or something else?

The NFL fancies itself as an inclusive entity. It has gone out of the way in recent years to put on some sort of public face that indicates it’s moving forward with the modern times — a self-proclaimed dramatic change from the good old boy network of the past. A forgery of sorts.

That became pretty relevant this past spring when Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib became the first active NFL player to come out of the closet.

“The NFL family is proud of Carl for courageously sharing his truth today,” Goodell wrote back in June . “Representation matters. We share his hope that someday soon statements like his will no longer be newsworthy as we march toward full equality for the LGBTQ+ community. We wish Carl the best of luck this coming season.”

Gruden himself also commented on his own player coming out months before his homophobic mentality were uncovered.

“I learned a long time ago what makes a man different is what makes him great,” the now-former Raiders coach said in a statement.

What do we take this to mean? It’s obvious Gruden is a different person behind the scenes while attempting to put on a public face to appease the masses. Given the actions of the NFL in the past, it wouldn’t be a complete stretch to conclude the same thing.

NFL and Black Lives Matter as a backdrop

nfl and black lives matter
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

If nothing else, Gruden’s emails prove that this public turn has not somehow led to a change of environment within the league itself. This is magnified by the former head coach’s stance on the Colin Kaepernick-led national anthem protests that started back in 2016.

“In numerous emails during a seven-year period ending in early 2018, Gruden criticized Goodell and the league for trying to reduce concussions and said that Eric Reid, a player who had demonstrated during the playing of the national anthem, should be fired. In several instances, Gruden used a homophobic slur to refer to Goodell and offensive language to describe some N.F.L. owners, coaches and journalists who cover the league,” Monday’s scatching NY Times report noted.

Again, who knew about the emails? Why hasn’t the NFL released other communications between those around the league and the Washington Football Team at the time? Could it be that Goodell himself is attempting to change the public narrative that the league does things differently internally than what it might want to let on publicly?

It was just back in June of 2020 that Goodell changed face and apologized for the NFL’s handling of the Kaepernick-led protests while showing support for the Black Lives Matter movement. Coincidentally, said comments came two weeks after the brutal murder of George Floyd by a then-Minneapolis police officer. Said admission also came after the NFL settled out of court with Kaepernick and Reid in their collusion cases. Coincidence? He couldn’t have said this earlier and reasonably expected to not be deposed in court and have some of the NFL’s filthy laundry exposed. Coincidence, right?

This has been a repeated theme in the past, something that defines many multi-billion dollar corporations the world over today. Earlier in October it was reported that the NFL might be considering an expansion team in St. Louis amid a legal battle stemming from the Rams relocation to Los Angeles years back. The reason? The league doesn’t want its dirty laundry exposed in a public form, primarily communications between some big-name owners.

“From the NFL’s perspective, a financial settlement with St. Louis might be the end result. A legal battle with communications between team owners could put the league in a bad light and would bring unwanted negative attention,” Sportsnaut’s Matt Johnson noted when covering that story recently.

The question now becomes what the NFL knew about Gruden’s communications with the Washington Football Team brass and for how long? Why is this just now being leaked to the media? Is Gruden being treated like the full guy?

NFL has a long history of secrecy and shady dealings

NFL: Preseason-Baltimore Ravens at Dallas Cowboys
Aug 16, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice (27) runs with the ball during the game against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

These are reasonable questions to ask given the dark cloud of secrecy that has continued to hang over the NFL corporate offices in New York City. From the Ray Rice scandal to the league’s handling of the national anthem protests (and subsequent public 180) to the ongoing Washington Football Team mess and the Gruden email scandal, it’s been repeated over and over again.

It’s about the almighty dollar. With this comes the need to put on a public face in the midst of an ever-evolving American society that the powers within the NFL had in the past pushed back against.

Gruden might be the poster boy for this right now, as was Donald Sterling in the NBA years back. But unlike its professional sports counterpart, the NFL has to be seen as aiding and abetting.

Just consider this.

“Gruden’s departure came after a New York Times report that N.F.L. officials, as part of a separate workplace misconduct investigation that did not directly involve him, found that Gruden had casually and frequently unleashed misogynistic and homophobic language over several years to denigrate people around the game and to mock some of the league’s momentous changes,” The NY Times reported noted ahead of Gruden’s firing.

Two different scandals under the umbrella of a workplace misconduct investigation that led to a mere $10 million fine of the Washington Football Team by the NFL. Scandals that included the following.

  • Sexual harassment against female employees of an NFL organization.
  • misogynistic, homophobic and racist language used by one of the preeminent NFL coaches over years.

The NFL needs to answer to this. If not, continued questions about the NFL being more of a part of the problem than the solution will come up on a never-ending loop. It’s not limited to Gruden. But this could be the final straw.

How will the league respond? That will tell us all we need to know about the NFL’s relevance in a society that continues to sweep the archaic ideologies of the past into the dustbin of history.