NFL coach Jon Gruden has been in the hot seat lately as some decade-old racist remarks have resurfaced, and Gruden is doubling down on his apology. He swears that his comments about the lips of NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith (who is Black) may have crossed the line in terms of personal attack, but they were never based on race.
“I am not a racist. I can’t tell you how sick I am,” Gruden said after his Las Vegas Raiders lost yesterday’s game against the Chicago Bears (beginning around the 3:20 mark in the video below). “I apologize again to De Smith. But I feel good about who I am and what I’ve done my entire life. I apologize for the insensitive remarks, I had no racial intentions with those remarks at all. I’m not like that at all. I don’t want to keep addressing it.”
The “it” which Gruden doesn’t want to revisit is that insult that Smith had “lips the size of michellin [sic] tires.” Gruden insists his comment, made in an email during the 2011 lockout, was about Smith’s alleged lies. In fact, the coach told the Wall Street Journal he says people of any background who don’t tell the truth can be said to have “rubber lips.”
However, neither the Raiders organization nor the NFL buys the explanation. “The content of an email regarding Maurice Smith from Jon Gruden when he worked for ESPN 10 years ago is disturbing and not what the Raiders stand for,” team owner Mark Davis posted to the Raiders Twitter feed. He went on to write that the evidence has been made available to them and will handle the matter with Gruden. “We… have no further comment at this time,” the statement concluded.
The NFL’s statement was more critical about the episode in its tone. “The email from Jon Gruden denigrating DeMaurice Smith is appalling, abhorrent, and wholly contrary to the NFL’s values,” it read. “We condemn the statement and regret any harm that its publication may inflict on Mr. Smith or anyone else.”
Gruden highlights that he had many unkind words for a number of league officials during the lockout, which he now regrets, including some for commish Roger Goodell.
However, Rod Graves, exec director of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, hopes that Gruden’s employer and the league will take his words seriously as they “are indicative of the racism that exist[s] on many levels of professional sports,” he said according to the Washington Post’s Mark Maske.
Here’s how Twitter reacted when the news of Gruden’s comments hit the timeline:
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