Raiders' Jon Gruden pushes back on email controversy: 'I’m not a racist'

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Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden on Sunday addressed the controversy over a 2011 email where he allegedly used racist language to describe NFL Players Association chief DeMaurice Smith.

Gruden was asked about the email a few times during his postgame press conference after the team’s loss to the Chicago Bears. He said he wasn’t going to spend the entire night talking about it.

 Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden talks with quarterback Derek Carr (4) during the second half against the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium.
(Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports)

“I’m not going to answer all these questions today. … 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 who 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.”

The email about Smith was first obtained by The Wall Street Journal. The report said the email was sent to then-Washington Football Team president Bruce Allen in the midst of the lockout.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told the The Wall Street Journal during a review of emails regarding the Washington Football Team’s own workplace misconduct investigation the NFL was “informed of the existence of emails that raised issues beyond the scope of that investigation.”

Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden speaks on his headset during the first half of an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears, Sunday, Oct. 10, 2021, in Las Vegas.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell added: “Over the past few months, at the commissioner’s direction, senior NFL executives reviewed the content of more than 650,000 emails, including this email which was sent to a club employee. Earlier this week, the executives presented a summary of that review to the commissioner and are sharing with Raiders executives emails pertaining to coach Gruden.”

Rod Graves, executive director of Fritz Pollard Alliance, a nonprofit whose mission is “to champion diversity in the National Football League,” said in a statement that the NFL and the Raiders need to respond to Gruden’s remarks with a “remedy commensurate with these painful words.”

“The insensitive remarks made by Jon Gruden about DeMaurice Smith are indicative of the racism that exists on many levels of professional sports,” Graves said. “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?”

Head coach John Gruden of the Las Vegas Raiders reacts during the first half against the Chicago Bears at Allegiant Stadium on Oct. 10, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Raiders team owner Mark Davis also condemned Gruden.

“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. We were first made aware of the email late yesterday by a reporter 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,” Davis said in a statement.

Las Vegas lost Sunday, 20-9.

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