NFL condemns “appalling” racist comment coach Jon Gruden made in email

The National Football League and the Las Vegas Raiders are condemning coach Jon Gruden after The Wall Street Journal unearthed an email he sent in 2011 in which he made a racist comment about DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the NFL Players Association.

“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 to CBS News. “We condemn the statement and regret any harm that its publication may inflict on Mr. Smith or anyone else.”

Mark Davis, owner of the Raiders, called the email “disturbing.”

“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,” he tweeted Friday. “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.”

According to The Wall Street Journal, Gruden wrote about Smith in an email to Bruce Allen, who was the then-president of Washington’s NFL team, 10 years ago.

“Dumboriss Smith has lips the size of michellin tires,” he wrote, according to the Journal.

Las Vegas Raiders v Pittsburgh Steelers
Jon Gruden of the Las Vegas Raiders in action against the Pittsburgh Steelers on September 19, 2021, at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Gruden, who was working for ESPN at the time, told The Wall Street Journal that he had been frustrated after the NFL coaches locked out their players over a contract dispute that year, and Smith was helping the players negotiate. Gruden said he didn’t trust the direction the players were headed in the negotiations. In the past, he said, he has referred to people he thinks are lying as “rubber lips,” and took it “too far” in the email to Allen, according to the Journal.

“I’m really sorry,” Gruden said in an interview with the publication. “I was upset. I used a horrible way of explaining it.” 

“I don’t think he’s dumb. I don’t think he’s a liar,” Gruden told the Journal, referring to Smith“I don’t have a racial bone in my body, and I’ve proven that for 58 years.” 

Smith also responded to The Wall Street Journal’s report.

“This is not the first racist comment that I’ve heard and it probably will not be the last,” he said in a statement to CBS News. “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.”