Gruden, Already Out of a Job, Is Losing Relationships Too
The damage to Jon Gruden’s legacy has radiated beyond the loss of his job as coach of the Las Vegas Raiders and the widespread denunciation of comments that were homophobic, misogynistic and racist. The revelation that Gruden denigrated people around the N.F.L. has tarnished long-held relationships, quashed a sponsorship deal and plunged him into disrepute with the organization he delivered a Super Bowl title.
Gruden has not spoken publicly since his statement announcing his resignation on Monday night, hours after The New York Times reported that N.F.L. officials had discovered, amid a workplace misconduct investigation into the Washington Football Team that did not directly involve him, that he had casually and regularly disparaged people throughout the league in bigoted terms. That report came three days after The Wall Street Journal first reported Gruden had sent a message in which he denigrated DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the N.F.L. Players Association, who is Black, with a racist trope.
The N.F.L.P.A. and the Fritz Pollard Alliance, which is dedicated to improving diversity in the N.F.L., condemned Gruden’s remarks, unlike the Raiders, who in their statement Monday night merely said that owner Mark Davis had accepted his resignation. On Wednesday, General Manager Mike Mayock emphasized to reporters that Davis’s late father, Al Davis, had employed, at various times, the league’s highest-ranking woman, Amy Trask; the first African American coach in the modern era, Art Shell; and one of the league’s first Hispanic coaches, Tom Flores.
Mark Davis told ESPN on Wednesday that he had no comment on Gruden’s departure. Then, perhaps suggesting his displeasure that these previously confidential emails had cost him his coach, Davis said, “Ask the N.F.L. They have all the answers.”
The league said last week that it shared emails with the Raiders in which Gruden made derogatory remarks. As the Raiders tried to regroup behind the interim coach, Rich Bisaccia, Gruden’s former team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, removed his name from their Ring of Honor at Raymond James Stadium. They likely had little choice after one email from 2015 revealed that Gruden — who coached the team for seven years, winning a Super Bowl at the end of the 2002 season — insulted Bryan Glazer, a scion of the family that owns the team, with a crude request.
Under their current coach, Bruce Arians, the Buccaneers have prioritized diversifying their staff. They became the first team to install Black coaches in all three coordinator positions, and they were also the first to have two women — assistant defensive line coach Lori Locust and strength and conditioning coach Maral Javadifar — in full-time roles.
“The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have advocated for purposeful change in the areas of race relations, gender equality, diversity and inclusion for many years,” the team said in a statement. “While we acknowledge Jon Gruden’s contributions on the field, his actions go against our core values as an organization.”
Gruden exchanged these emails with Bruce Allen, the former president of the Washington Football Team, and others, during his time as an ESPN commentator before his second stint as the Raiders’ coach began in 2018. They represent just a sliver of about 650,000 messages reviewed by the N.F.L. as part of an investigation into Washington’s workplace culture that ended this summer. The league, concluding that the environment was “highly unprofessional” and perpetuated bullying and intimidation, fined Washington $10 million.
No formal accounting of the investigation was released at the time, only a short summary. Lisa Banks and Debra Katz, lawyers who were representing 40 former team employees, inveighed against that decision at the time, saying that the league was protecting the team’s owner, Daniel Snyder, by keeping the findings private. Banks and Katz renewed their push on Tuesday after Gruden’s resignation.
“It is truly outrageous that after the NFL’s 10-month-long investigation involving hundreds of witnesses and 650,000 documents related to the longtime culture of harassment and abuse at the Washington Football Team, the only person to be held accountable and lose their job is the coach of the Las Vegas Raiders,” they said in a statement. “Our clients and the public at large deserve transparency and accountability. If not, the N.F.L. and Roger Goodell must explain why they appear intent on protecting the Washington Football Team and owner Dan Snyder at all costs.”
Gruden also lost his endorsement contract with the footwear and apparel company Skechers, which in a statement cited a zero-tolerance policy for behavior that opposes its belief in “equality, fostering tolerance and understanding for all people.”
He also may have lost the respect of one of his former players, Carl Nassib, who is the first active N.F.L. player to publicly declare that he is gay.
Gruden, in one email, used a derogatory term when he wrote that Commissioner Roger Goodell shouldn’t have pressured the Rams to draft gay players. Gruden was referring to Michael Sam, a gay player taken in 2014. When Nassib came out in June, Gruden praised his decision. Nassib has not commented publicly on Gruden’s emails, but when the Raiders reconvened Wednesday for practice, Nassib was not there.
“He requested a personal day today,” Mayock told reporters. “He just said he’s got a lot to process, there’s a lot that’s been going on the last few days, and of course, we support that request.”