The 3-1 Las Vegas Raiders are preparing to host the 2-2 Chicago Bears in Week 5 but were in headlines on Friday afternoon for a much different reason.
Andrew Beaton of the Wall Street Journal (h/t Pro Football Talk, ESPN) reports the NFL discovered an email written by current Raiders head coach Jon Gruden in 2011 that included Gruden using racist language directed toward NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith.
"Dumboriss [sic] Smith has lips the size of michellin [sic] tires," Gruden reportedly wrote.
Gruden told Wall Street Journal he doesn't recall writing the email but apologized for its language.
"I’m really sorry," Gruden said. "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. I don’t have a racial bone in my body, and I’ve proven that for 58 years."
The report adds Gruden's alleged emails were sent in the summer of 2011 when the NFL and NFLPA were battling over the lockout that threatened the subsequent season. Gruden did admit to using the term "rubber lips" but said that was in reference to people he believed to be liars.
That year, he worked for ESPN as a "Monday Night Football" analyst.
The NFL responded via a statement:
"The email from Jon Gruden denigrating DeMaurice Smith is 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."
Gruden's role with the Raiders moving forward is understandably in question:
The NFL is sharing emails pertaining to Gruden with the Raiders. A person familiar with the matter says the NFL is discussing Gruden's status with the club. More for @WSJSports: https://t.co/MQn55oEMZE— Andrew Beaton (@andrewlbeaton) October 8, 2021
PFT's Mike Florio notes that Raiders owner Mark Davis could potentially punish or even fire Gruden over the controversy if he wishes.
Meanwhile, Smith responded:
"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.
"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."
The league learned of the email via its investigation of the Washington Football Team.