Jon Gruden Addresses Racism Controversy in Press Conference

He did so after this weekend's Raiders-Bears game

Jon Gruden
Head coach Jon Gruden of the Las Vegas Raiders during the NFL game at Allegiant Stadium on September 26, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Last week, The Wall Street Journal published an article that revealed deeply unpleasant comments made by current Raiders head coach Jon Gruden in 2011, when he was working as a commentator for ESPN. In an email sent to Bruce Allen, then the president of Washington, DC’s NFL team. In his email, Gruden referred to NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith using racist imagery.

The response to the article was swift. “This is not the first racist comment that I’ve heard and it probably will not be the last,” Smith said in a statement to the Wall Street Journal. “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.”

“I used a horrible way of explaining it,” Gruden admitted, but paused at going any further. “I don’t have a racial bone in my body, and I’ve proven that for 58 years.”

Since then, more and more people around the NFL have weighed in on Gruden’s comments, including several Raiders players — who, based on comments made in this ESPN article, seem largely supportive of their coach. Gruden himself fielded questions on his past comments following the Raiders’ loss to the Bears on Sunday.

“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.”

As The Athletic noted in its report on the press conference, Gruden did qualify his remarks. “But I feel good about who I am and what I’ve done my entire life,” he added. “I apologize again for the insensitive remarks. I had no racial intentions with those remarks at all.”

Gruden also said that he had not yet been contacted by the NFL itself about his remarks.

UPDATE: On Monday night, CBS Sports reported that Gruden had resigned as coach of the Raiders. This follows the publication of a New York Times report detailing homophobic and sexist language used in multiple emails he sent between 2010 and 2018.

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