Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden sent an email with racially insensitive language about NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith in July 2011, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday.
The email, sent to the president of the Washington Football Team as the NFL and its players were in the midst of trying to resolve a lockout, said that Smith had “lips the size of michellin tires,” the Journal reported, saying it has reviewed the email.
Asked about the email by the Journal, Gruden said he didn’t specifically recall writing it, but apologized.
“I’m really sorry,” he said, according to the Journal.
Gruden, who was employed at the time as the lead analyst for Monday Night Football on ESPN, told ESPN’s Paul Gutierrez he spoke with the Raiders players Friday morning to give them a heads-up that the Journal’s report would be coming out.
“That might not have been the best time of my life,” Gruden said, referring to the impending lockout. “I vented a lot. There was about to be a lockout and I never felt we were getting the truth and honesty [in negotiations].”
Gruden told ESPN he has routinely used the term “rubber lips” to “refer to a guy I catch as lying … he can’t spit it out.”
“I’m ashamed I insulted D. Smith,” Gruden said, adding, “I never had a racial thought when I used it. … I’m embarrassed by what’s out there. I certainly never meant for it to sound that bad.”
The email came to light during the NFL’s investigation of workplace misconduct with the Washington Football team. The league told the Journal it had reviewed 650,000 emails, including the one Gruden wrote to Bruce Allen, then the president of the team. The Journal reported the NFL had sent pertinent emails to the Raiders for review.
“The email from Jon Gruden denigrating DeMaurice Smith is appalling, abhorrent and wholly contrary to the NFL’s values,” the NFL said in a statement Friday afternoon. “We condemn the statement and regret any harm that its publication may inflict on Mr. Smith or anyone else.”
Gruden said he has spoken with Raiders owner Mark Davis and expects to speak with him again. He was not sure whether he would face any consequences from Davis or the NFL.
“I have no idea,” Gruden told ESPN. “I hope not.”
Davis did not immediately respond to requests for comment from ESPN.
“This is not the first racist comment that I’ve heard and it probably will not be the last,” Smith told the Journal. “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.
“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,” Smith said. “I’m sorry my family has to see something like this but I would rather they know. I will not let it define me.”
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