Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden used a racial trope in a 2011 email to describe NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday.
Amid the 2011 lockout between the NFL and NFLPA, Gruden sent an email to then-Washington president Bruce Allen, in which he wrote, “Dumboriss Smith has lips the size of michellin tires,” referring to Smith, who is Black, The Journal reported.
Gruden told the newspaper he was angry about the lockout during labor negotiations and he didn’t trust the direction the union was taking. He also apologized for the remark, The Journal reported.
“I was upset,” Gruden said. “I used a horrible way of explaining it.”
“I don’t think he’s dumb. I don’t think he’s a liar,” Gruden told The Journal. “I don’t have a racial bone in my body, and I’ve proven that for 58 years.”
Smith released the following statement to The 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 said. “I’m sorry my family has to see something like this but I would rather they know. I will not let it define me.”
Raiders owner Mark Davis said in a Friday statement that Gruden’s comments do not reflect his organization’s beliefs.
“The content of an email regarding DeMaurice Smith from Jon Gruden when he worked for ESPN 10 years ago is disturbing and not what the Raiders stand for. We were first made aware of the email late yesterday by a reporter and are reviewing it along with other materials provided to us today by the NFL. We are addressing the matter with Coach Gruden and will have no further comment at this time.”
The NFL also publicly rebuked Gruden in a statement Friday.
“The email from Jon Gruden denigrating DeMaurice Smith is appalling, abhorrent and wholly contrary to the NFL’s values,” a league spokesperson said. “We condemn the statement and regret any harm that its publication may inflict on Mr. Smith or anyone else.”
Gruden had worked with Allen during his time as head coach of the Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Smith has been the NFLPA executive director since 2009.
The Raiders host the Chicago Bears this Sunday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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