Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden finds himself in hot water heading into Week 4 of the NFL season. According to the Wall Street Journal, he sent an email to former Washington Football Team president Bruce Allen that contained language that has been called racist when talking about the executive director of the NFL Players Association DeMaurice Smith. The coach has come out and apologized, but this saga is far from over for him.
It remains to be seen what will happen to Gruden considering he wasn’t an NFL employee at the time of the email in 2011. However, it’s hard to imagine he comes out of this situation unscathed. Though he’s given statements to many media members, he reached out to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen to offer more details, including how he used inflammatory language to describe the NFL commissioner.
“I was in a bad frame of mind at the time (in 2011) and I called Roger Goodell a (expletive) in one of these emails, too,” Gruden told ESPN. “They were keeping players and coaches from doing what they love with a lockout. There also were a lot of things being reported publicly about the safety of the sport that I love. I was on a mission with high school football (in the Tampa area) during that time and there were a lot of parents who were scared about letting their kids play football. It just didn’t sit well with me.”
Gruden has always had a colorful vocabulary but many have had a major issue with his choice to refer to Smith’s lips as the size of “Michelin tires.”
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How Has the Team Reacted?
At the end of the day, the Raiders players will play a big role regarding what happens to Gruden. They can either rally behind him or he could lose the team completely. According to Mortensen, there are varied opinions in the locker room but the coach does have his supporters, “including one Black player who gave him a hug and asked how he could help, according to sources.”
The players know Gruden and his character as well as anybody. If they have his back, it would go a long way in rehabilitating his image. It’s still early in the process and he’s going to have to do a lot of work to fix his reputation.
Job Status & Possible Punishment Revealed by Insider
If this situation goes south for Gruden, the Raiders will have a sticky situation on their hands. Considering he wasn’t an employee of the team at the time of the email and “it was a private comment not a public statement,” the team could have a hard time firing him, according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk.
That may not matter, as the Raiders haven’t discussed moving on from the coach, per Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports. “Sources said the Raiders made no immediate suggestion that his job status was in any jeopardy,” Canfora wrote.
The insider also revealed what type of punishment Gruden could receive from the NFL, telling Canfora, “Some close to Commissioner Roger Goodell believe that ultimately a hefty fine and further diversity and inclusion training will be forthcoming, with a suspension less likely, based on the numerous mitigating circumstances. But they also suggested that there are not many comparable situations to this, and that other evidence could necessarily lead to a more intense punishment.”
As La Canfora noted, this is a unique situation for the NFL to be in. It’s possible they try to make an example of Gruden and level a harsh punishment his way. They could also give him a slap on the wrist. It’s still early in the process but it appears the coach will keep doing his job until the league makes a decision.