Raiders' Jon Gruden Apologizes for DeMaurice Smith Remark: 'I Am Not a Racist'

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVOctober 11, 2021

Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden speaks during a news conference after an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears, Sunday, Oct. 10, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
AP Photo/Rick Scuteri

Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden apologized again for the racist remark he made about NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith in a 2011 email.

"I am not a racist. I can't tell you how sick I am," he told reporters Sunday following his team's 20-9 loss to the Chicago Bears. "I apologize again to De Smith. But I feel good about who I am and what I've done my entire life. I apologize for the insensitive remarks, I had no racial intentions with those remarks at all. I'm not like that at all. I don't want to keep addressing it."

The Wall Street Journal's Andrew Beaton reported Gruden wrote to former Washington Football Team executive Bruce Allen during the 2011 NFL lockout and said that Smith had "lips the size of michellin tires."

Raiders owner Mark Davis described the comment as "disturbing and not what the Raiders stand for."

Las Vegas Raiders @Raiders

<a href="https://t.co/nyBuQv1Nbo">pic.twitter.com/nyBuQv1Nbo</a>

The NFL echoed Davis' tone in condemning the email:

Tom Pelissero @TomPelissero

Statement from the NFL: "The email from Jon Gruden denigrating DeMaurice Smith is appalling, abhorrent and wholly contrary to the NFL’s values. We condemn the statement and regret any harm that its publication may inflict on Mr. Smith or anyone else." <a href="https://t.co/FSpVIv6D4t">https://t.co/FSpVIv6D4t</a>

Gruden told Beaton he uses the phrase "rubber lips" to describe people he believes to be lying. He added that he doesn't "have a racial bone in my body."

The 58-year-old expressed more contrition to ESPN's Paul Gutierrez.

"I'm ashamed I insulted De Smith," he said. "I never had a racial thought when I used it. ... I'm embarrassed by what's out there. I certainly never meant for it to sound that bad."

Rod Graves, executive director of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, said he hopes the NFL and the Raiders "will address this matter with a remedy commensurate with these painful words," per the Washington Post's Mark Maske. Graves also said Gruden's comments "are indicative of the racism that exist[s] on many levels of professional sports."

Gruden has since confirmed to ESPN's Chris Mortensen the league provided additional correspondences of his to Raiders executives. Among the things he said in the messages, he used an expletive to describe NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, and his writing "included harsh words for a handful of team owners who were involved in the 2011 labor disagreement that led to a lockout," per Mortensen.


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