The emails were written over the course of 10 years and included one in which he used a racial trope to describe National Football League Players Association Chief DeMaurice Smith, who is Black.
Gruden, 58, became the Raiders head coach in 2018, signing a 10-year contract worth a reported $100 million.
According to The New York Times, Gruden sent emails to Bruce Allen, then the president of the Washington Football Team, and others up until 2018. In an email to Allen, Gruden said, “Dumboriss Smith has lips the size of Michelin tires,” the Wall Street Journal reported.
Gruden’s comments were indicative of the harsh reality Black people continue to face as they advance their careers, Smith said in a statement to The Wall Street Journal.
“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,” Smith said. “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,” Smith added. “I’m sorry my family has to see something like this but I would rather they know. I will not let it define me.”
Some Twitter users defended Gruden.
Others called out Gruden’s defenders.
“LOL @ people defending Gruden. The man emailed pornographic images and racist, homophobic, misogynistic content to work colleagues. Coaches are supposed to be leaders; his poor judgment and lack of character created a toxic environment and reflected poorly on the team. Justified,” Nancy Mize@nancy_mize tweeted.
Gruden’s emails also included vulgar comments about NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. Gruden emailed Allen that Goodell should not have pressured then-Rams coach Jeff Fisher to draft “queers,” referring to former defensive end Michael Sam, a gay player drafted in 2014, according to the Times.
The emails came to light during the NFL’s investigation into workplace misconduct with Washington, as “the league was informed of the existence of emails that raised issues beyond the scope of that investigation,” according to NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy. Senior league executives reviewed the content of more than 650,000 emails, including the one the Journal reported was written by Gruden to Allen, ESPN reported.
The NFL fined the Washington Football Team $10 million for fostering a workplace culture of sexual harassment, bullying and intimidation. Team owner Daniel Snyder has turned over day-to-day operations of the team to his wife.
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Before he resigned, Gruden apologized and distanced himself from his own racist emails.
“All I can say is I’m not a racist,” Gruden said. “I can’t tell you how sick I am. I apologize again to De Smith. But I feel good about who I am, what I’ve done my entire life. And I apologize for the insensitive remarks I had. I had no racial intentions with those remarks at all. … I’m not like that at all. But I apologize.”
The NFL’s anti-Black problems are not going away, The Moguldom Nation CEO Jamarlin Martin tweeted. “The NFL hired Roc Nation & Jay-Z to help their problems go away, like the issues that went away w/the Brooklyn development., The US GOV &these powerful corporations have a lot of firepower but these anti-Black problems aren’t going away, the NFL is not structured for these times.”