Jon Gruden’s week from hell ended in fitting fashion Sunday — with a sloppy, ugly 20-9 Las Vegas Raiders home loss to the Chicago Bears. But the No. 1 topic during Gruden’s postgame news conference wasn’t the Raiders’ half-dozen offensive holding penalties or their 3.2 yards-per-carry average. It was Gruden’s racist language in a 10-year-old email.
Will Raiders’ Jon Gruden be disciplined?
Gruden on Sunday again insisted the trope he used to describe NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith in a private email was not racially motivated. The only news he did make on the topic was to reveal that he had not yet been contacted by the NFL regarding any disciplinary action. But Gruden hinted that such communication could occur, adding “we’ll see what happens here in the next few days.”
League decision-makers are expected to meet as early as Monday to discuss what punishment Gruden deserves for writing to a member of the Washington Football Team that Smith had “lips the size of Michelin tires” during the 2011 lockout.
“I am not a racist,” Gruden 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 Wall Street Journal on Friday was the first to reveal the contents of that email, which was uncovered during a review of WFT’s workplace culture. The Raiders and the NFL have both condemned the comments, and the Raiders said in a statement Friday that the league has since shared the email and “other materials” with the organization. Gruden was contacted by the Journal on Thursday for comment on the story and briefed the entire team on the matter late in the week.
Las Vegas Raiders players react
“He came to the team before it all came out,” said Raiders running back Josh Jacobs. “He kind of talked to us. Had a team meeting and laid everything out, the situation that occurred. I’ve been around this guy for three years now. I’ve never felt a certain type of way about him. He’s never rubbed me that type of way. What he said was what he said at the end of the day. I definitely trust him. And it was 10 years ago. People grow.”
Added Raiders quarterback Derek Carr: “He was very honest and [upfront] with us before that article came out. …. He told us exactly what he said in that email. He tried his best to remember. He told us up front what he said about Gene Upshaw, which were very positive things. What he said about DeMaurice. …. He flat-out told us. He addressed it. He was honest. He was upfront with it.
“Us as a team were like, ‘It was 10 years ago. We love you man. We’ve got your back.’ We’re just trying to be there to support coach. I know it’s a hard time, what he said to us. I’ll let him speak on that. I don’t want to speak for him. When we left that meeting, it was like, ‘Dang, that sucks man.’ He probably regrets it. He told us. ‘Men learn from my mistakes.’ He said that to us.”
What we might never know: If the contents of that email, and the negative attention it’s brought upon the franchise, affected how the Raiders played Sunday. We do know they didn’t perform up to their standards in Week 5. Las Vegas’ high-powered offense managed just 259 yards and 16 first downs. The Raiders were particularly sloppy, committing 10 penalties for 82 yards.