This week, we were hit with disturbing news about a 2011 email leaking that unearthed Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden’s racist insult toward NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith.
Whether you agree there are racial undertones, at the very least, everyone can be on board with Gruden’s words being entirely inappropriate, hurtful and out of line.
If you’re a former player, though, this hits very differently.
Fans and pundits can inject their opinion all they want, but they’re not the ones in the locker room looking up to a leadership figure such as Gruden … only to find out about something that seriously taints his character, especially during a time when race relations have been a paramount focus of the NFL.
Patriots legends Randy Moss and Tedy Bruschi sounded off on Jon Gruden.
Moss nails it on the head. Gruden is a leader of so many players, employees, whoever/whatever else. He’s the front-facing leader of an organization that relocated to Las Vegas and was hoping to turn a corner after so much failure in Oakland. How does this information being made public affect locker room morale? How does it reflect on the organization? How are black players not supposed to feel some sort of way about this?
Do you think the Raiders losing at home 20-9 to the Chicago Bears was a coincidence? Did you not hear what Bruschi said after Moss? “I can play for you, but I’d rather not. If I have to do it I will, and it’s just because I have other people that I have to provide for.”
In case you needed Bruschi, who isn’t a black man, to clarify why this was indeed a racist remark by Gruden, here you go:
"“When you insult a Black man’s intelligence by demeaning his appearance, that is racist. That is the only way I know it. That is the only way I was raised. That is racist.”"
These are candid, passionate, emotional responses from former players from a completely different generation of the NFL. You don’t think these guys heard worse things? Or experienced more troubling situations when a decade or two ago it was more commonplace to turn a blind eye to such actions?
These former Patriots got it right, and you couldn’t have scripted better responses that made sense of a difficult subject and how the implications are more lasting and impactful than you might think.