Jon Gruden announced his resignation as coach of the Las Vegas Raiders on Monday night.
He stepped aside amid a burgeoning controversy over racist, homophobic and misogynistic language that he used in emails over a span of approximately seven years before he returned to the NFL in 2018 as the Raiders’ coach.
Gruden met Monday with Raiders owner Mark Davis and later told staff members that he was resigning, according to a person close to the situation.
“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.”
The NFL said Friday that it condemned a 2011 email by Gruden, who worked for ESPN at the time, that used racist language to denigrate DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the NFL Players Association. Gruden apologized for the language he used in that email and said he is not a racist.
The league sent the Raiders additional emails in which Gruden used homophobic and misogynistic language to describe people and events within the league, according to a person familiar with the case. The content of those emails was first reported by the New York Times.
Davis said in a statement Monday that he had accepted Gruden’s resignation. The team announced that Rich Bisaccia, its assistant head coach and special teams coordinator, would serve as interim head coach.
The additional emails sent to the Raiders spanned from 2011 to roughly 2017, according to a person with knowledge of the case. The emails were sent from Gruden to Bruce Allen, the former president of the organization now known as the Washington Football Team, and other associates that included Jim McVay, an executive formerly in charge of the Outback Bowl.
Gruden used a homophobic slur to describe NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and another vulgarity to refer to him. He used homophobic language in contending that Goodell should not have influenced the Rams, then based in St. Louis, to select Michael Sam in the draft. The Rams chose Sam, who was seeking to become the league’s first openly gay player, in 2014.
The Fritz Pollard Alliance, a diversity group that works closely with the NFL, had called for the league or the Raiders to act.
“The insensitive remarks made by Jon Gruden about DeMaurice Smith are indicative of the racism that exist[s] on many levels of professional sports,” Rod Graves, the group’s executive director, said in a statement Sunday. “Furthermore, it reveals that the journey for African Americans and other minorities in sports, is riddled with irrepressible mindsets at the highest level. It is our hope that the league and team ownership will address this matter with a remedy commensurate with these painful words.
“This is yet another inflection point in a society fraught with cynical social blinders, absent of respect for the intellectual capacity and leadership of minorities. When will it end?”
Gruden spoke Sunday following the Raiders’ 20-9 loss to the Chicago Bears in Las Vegas. He was asked what he expected to happen.
“I’m not going to answer all these questions today,” he said. “I think I’ve addressed it already. 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 that 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.”
Gruden said Sunday that the language he used in his 2011 email was not reflective of his views on race.
“All I can say is I’m not a racist,” he said. “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 for the insensitive remarks. I had no racial intentions with those remarks at all. … I’m not like that at all. But I apologize. I don’t want to keep addressing it.”
The NFL said Friday that it condemned the language used by Gruden in the 2011 email to Allen. The league declined to comment then on the possibility of taking disciplinary action.
“The email from Jon Gruden denigrating DeMaurice Smith is appalling, abhorrent and wholly contrary to the NFL’s values,” league spokesman Brian McCarthy said then in a statement. “We condemn the statement and regret any harm that its publication may inflict on Mr. Smith or anyone else.”
According to the Wall Street Journal, which first reported the 2011 email, Gruden used a racist trope as he wrote to Allen, “Dumboriss Smith has lips the size of michellin tires.” Smith, who is Black, has been the NFLPA’s executive director since 2009.
According to McCarthy, the NFL came across Gruden’s email to Allen as part of the investigation into workplace misconduct involving the Washington Football Team. The league “was informed of the existence of emails that raised issues beyond the scope of that investigation,” McCarthy said in his statement Friday.
Senior NFL executives reviewed the content of more than 650,000 emails, including Gruden’s to Allen, over the past few months, according to McCarthy. Those executives presented a summary of that review to Goodell and “are sharing with Raiders executives emails pertaining to Coach Gruden,” McCarthy said.
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