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Reported racist comment from Jon Gruden in 2011 draws NFL rebuke

The Wall Street Journal reported that current Raiders coach Jon Gruden used a racist comment about players union leader DeMaurice Smith 10 years ago.
Credit: AP
Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden attends a news conference after an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins, Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

The NFL reacted strongly and quickly Friday to a report that Jon Gruden used a racist comment about NFL Players Association leader DeMaurice Smith in an email 10 years ago.

A Wall Street Journal story noted that Gruden, then working for ESPN and now coach of the Las Vegas Raiders, referred in a racist way to Smith's facial features.

“The email from Jon Gruden denigrating DeMaurice Smith is appalling, abhorrent and wholly contrary to the NFL’s values,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said. “We condemn the statement and regret any harm that its publication may inflict on Mr. Smith or anyone else.”

The league is looking into the matter and a person familiar with that probe told The Associated Press that disciplinary action is possible for Gruden. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because details of any league probe are not made public.

Gruden's comment in an email to then-Washington Football Team President Bruce Allen came during the 2011 lockout of the players by the NFL. 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.

During a review of emails regarding workplace misconduct at the Washington Football Team that was completed during the summer, “the league was informed of the existence of emails that raised issues beyond the scope of that investigation,” McCarthy added.

“Over the past few months, at the commissioner’s direction,” he added of Roger Goodell, “senior NFL executives reviewed the content of more than 650,000 emails, including this email which was sent to a club employee. Earlier this week, the executives presented a summary of that review to the commissioner and are sharing with Raiders executives emails pertaining to coach Gruden.”