Las Vegas Raiders’ head coach Jon Gruden allegedly made racist comments about NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith in newly resurfaced emails.
The emails, reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, were sent in July 2011 in the midst of players and the National Football League’s attempts to resolve a lockout. Gruden was a broadcaster for ESPN at the time.
According to the newspaper, the league’s owners had voted to approve a new collective bargaining agreement but the players opted out of voting on it immediately due to unresolved issues with the union. The Wall Street Journal said Gruden’s remarks about Smith, who is Black, used a “racist trope common in anti-Black imagery.”
“Dumboriss Smith has lips the size of michellin tires,” he allegedly wrote, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Raiders’ owner Mark Davis condemned the email, saying in a statement: “The content of an email regarding DeMaurice Smith from Jon Gruden when he worked for ESPN 10 years ago is disturbing and not what the Raiders stand for.”
Davis said they learned of the email late Thursday by a journalist and are “reviewing it along with other materials provided to us today by the NFL. We are addressing the matter with Coach Gruden and will have no further comment at this time.”
A spokesperson for the league said the email was “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,” the NFL said.
Smith told the newspaper: “This is not the first racist comment that I’ve heard and it probably will not be the last. This is a thick skin job for someone with dark skin, just like it always has been for many people who look like me and work in corporate America.”
“You know people are sometimes saying things behind your back that are racist just like you see people talk and write about you using thinly coded and racist language,” he added. “Racism like this comes from the fact that I’m at the same table as they are and they don’t think someone who looks like me belongs. I’m sorry my family has to see something like this but I would rather they know. I will not let it define me.”
Gruden apologized for his comments, telling The Wall Street Journal that he was angry over the lockout.
“I was upset,” Gruden said. “I used a horrible way of explaining it.”
The coach said he use to refer to people who thought was lying as “rubber lips,” but took his comments about Smith “too far.”
“I don’t think he’s dumb. I don’t think he’s a liar,” he told the newspaper. “I don’t have a racial bone in my body, and I’ve proven that for 58 years.”