The NFL is investigating more than 650,000 emails, including emails sent by Las Vegas Raiders coaches as part of a recent investigation. Gruden apologized for the comment.
“Dumboris Smith’s lips are the size of a Michelin tire,” he wrote in an email reviewed by Businesshala.
Gruden is currently the head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders, having previously coached both the Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the franchise that led them to their first Super Bowl victory since the 2002 season. He was a broadcaster for ESPN at the time when he sent emails to Bruce Allen, then the president of the franchise, now called the Washington Football Team.
In an interview, Gruden said that he cannot specifically remember writing the email, but apologized for using that language.
“I’m really sorry,” he said.
The NFL is reviewing Gruden’s situation with the Raiders for possible discipline, a person familiar with the matter said.
Gruden said he was furious about the lockdown at the time and did not believe the players, led by Smith, were going into talks. He said he has in the past referred to people he believes are lying as “rubber lips” and that he has taken it “too far”.
“I was upset,” Gruden said. “I used a terrible way of explaining it.”
“I don’t think he’s dumb. I don’t think he’s a liar,” Gruden said. “I don’t have a racial bone in my body, and I’ve proven it for 58 years.”
In a statement to Businesshala, Smith said Gruden’s comments reflect the difficult reality that blacks face as they advance their careers.
“This isn’t the first racist comment I’ve heard and it probably won’t be the last. This is a fat skin act for someone with darker skin, just like it does for many people who look like me. And work in corporate America,” Smith said. “You know people sometimes behind your back saying things that are racist like you see people talk about you and thin code Use racist and racist language.”
“This kind of racism comes from the fact that I’m at the same table as they are and they don’t think there’s anyone who looks like me,” Smith said. “I’m sorry my family had to see something like this, but I wish they knew. I won’t let it define me.”
The NFL said, during an investigation into workplace misconduct at the Washington football team that ended this summer, it was “notified of the existence of emails that raised issues beyond the scope of that investigation.”
Over the past few months, the NFL said, senior NFL officials, at the direction of Commissioner Roger Goodell, have reviewed more than 650,000 emails, including this one. Earlier this week, officials submitted a summary of that review to Goodell. The league said it was sharing Gruden-related emails with the Raiders.
The NFL said, “The email defaming DeMorris Smith by John Gruden is appalling, disgusting, and contrary to the values of the NFL.” “We condemn this statement and regret the loss caused by its publication to Mr. Smith or anyone else.”
The attackers had no immediate comment.
A review of other emails in the same thread did not make it clear what caused Gruden’s comment. The email series initially began with several people discussing the TMZ story about Tiger Woods’ split with his longtime caddy. The discussion then shifted to NFL matters, although the context of the comments was unclear.
Allen did not respond through several attempts to reach him.
Gruden, 58, has long been one of football’s biggest coaching stars. He was hired to coach the then Oakland Raiders starting in 1998 after being viewed as one of the most talented youth offensive assistant coaches in the game. In 2002, he coached the Buccaneers as part of an unusual trade in which Tampa Bay gave him several draft picks and millions of dollars to acquire. During his first season with the Buccaneers, he became the youngest coach to win the Super Bowl, in a victory over his former team, the Raiders.
Gruden never repeated that success and after seven seasons with the team, he was fired after the 2008 season. Later, he became a high-profile broadcaster on ESPN called Monday Night Football Games.
The Raiders brought him back in 2018 with a lucrative deal to be their coach again. The team, which moved to Las Vegas last year, failed to reach the playoffs in its first three years with the club. It is tied 3-1 so far this year, for the first place in the division.
Smith, 57, has been the Executive Director of the NFLPA since 2009. In 2011, when Gruden sent the email, Smith led players through controversial labor negotiations with the NFL that resulted in a lockout for more than four months.
After the new deal was approved by the NFL owners, the agreement was approved and ratified by the players in the coming days after further negotiations. The agreement includes a number of improvements for players, including more benefits for retired players, a new pay level, and more guaranteed injury-protection funding.
Smith was also on top for the most recent bargaining talks, which led to a new, decade-long deal in 2020. That agreement paved the way for the league’s lucrative new round of media deals, valued at more than $100 billion, and the NFL’s new 17-game season, which players accepted in exchange for a sizable chunk of revenue.
That latest deal, which ended as the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted sport in the US earlier, was passed only with a narrow acceptance of the players. Smith’s long-term future is currently being decided by the player leadership, whose contract expires in 2022.
Write to Andrew Beaton at [email protected]