Mike Tirico and Tony Dungy on Sunday defended Jon Gruden over the email the Las Vegas Raiders head coach has received attention for.
On Friday, the Wall Street Journal published a story saying that Gruden mentioned NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith’s tire-sized lips in a 2011 email sent to a then-Washington football executive.
The Wall Street Journal publicized the story by saying Gruden used a racial trope about Smith, who is black. Smith issued a comment in the story saying that Gruden’s comment was a typical example of the racism he has to face.
The story was released the same day Smith was facing reelection for his position with the NFLPA, which he narrowly won in a surprising vote.
Gruden immediately apologized for the contents of his email and added context to the comment. He said that he uses the term “rubber lips” to describe people who are lying. Therefore, he says his Michelin tire lips comment about Smith had to do with Gruden saying the NFLPA executive was lying, and was not an attack on Smith’s physical characteristics.
During NBC’s “Football Night in America” on Sunday night, both Tirico and Dungy addressed the matter.
“We heard Jon Gruden say he addressed this. He gave his side of it. He said that it wasn’t racial, that he was making a comment about DeMaurice Smith, and he basically attacked his character,” Dungy said. “I will accept that and just say that it was an immature way to do it. It wasn’t the right way to do it. But it was 10 years ago. And I’m not going to chalk everything up to racism. I think we accept his apology, move forward, and move on with his team.”
Tirico then offered his thoughts. He explained how he and Gruden were broadcasting partners at ESPN for “Monday Night Football” at the time.
“I think if I’m being honest with the audience, I should weigh in a little bit here,” Tirico began. “I was with Jon at that time — seven years as my partner on ‘Monday Night Football.’ I probably know Jon better than anybody in the league on a personal level. He said it right — he was ashamed by the comments in the email. The comments in the email are wrong.
“But, my experience kind of parallels Tim Brown, who played for Jon. [Brown] said he never experienced or saw anything that would say Jon was racist in any way. That was exactly the experience I had, those seven years of traveling, three days together on the road together every week.”
Both the Raiders and the NFL have issued statements on Gruden’s 2011 email comment. NBC Sports’ Mike Florio said on “Football Night in America” that some in the league office do not believe Gruden will be suspended.