NFL players attack ‘fraud’ Jon Gruden after racist and homophobic emails

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<span>Photograph: Cary Edmondson/USA Today Sports</span>
Photograph: Cary Edmondson/USA Today Sports

There was little sympathy from NFL players past and present on Tuesday for Jon Gruden after his resignation from the Las Vegas Raiders.

Gruden quit his post after the release of emails in which he used racist, homophobic and misogynistic language. In one email that came to light on Monday he lamented the NFL drafting “queers” after the St Louis Rams selected Michael Sam, who is gay, in 2014. In another, released on Friday, he described the head of the NFL Players’ Association DeMaurice Smith, who is Black, as having “lips the size of michellin tires”.

In an appearance on the Pat McAfee Show, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said: “Those opinions don’t have a place in the game … that shit doesn’t fly.” Rodgers, one of the most prominent players in the NFL, added he does not believe Gruden’s emails are reflective of the league.

“I can say with real honesty and pride that those opinions aren’t shared with players ... the locker room allows you to have incredible conversations and that’s the best way to grow, learn, change and better yourself,” he said.

McAfee, who played for the Indianapolis Colts before his move into the media, said Gruden had no excuses. “You can’t just plead ignorance, you can’t just say ‘I didn’t mean to hurt anyone.’ Because it’s very evident that if you’re willing to put it on record and type it down, you’re probably using it everyday,” McAfee said.

Keyshawn Johnson, who was coached by Gruden when they won the Super Bowl together with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 2002 season, was more blunt.

“He’s just always been a fraud to me. ... From day one, he’s been a used car salesman. And people bought it because he inherited a championship team built by Tony Dungy and Rich McKay,” Johnson said on his ESPN radio show.

Johnson expanded on his views during a later appearance on ESPN’s First Take. “Man this dude is a fraud. Y’all don’t seem to understand he’s selling you on something and you’re buying it,” he said. “He’s been doing that for years. ... Talking behind people’s backs, that was one of his traits in Tampa.”

Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin also worked with Gruden at the Buccaneers. “I’m saddened for the Raiders organization. I’m saddened for the people who were offended by it. I’m saddened for coach Gruden. It’s a sad commentary. That’s the only opinion I care to share at this juncture,” he said on Tuesday.

After Sunday’s game, and before Monday’s emails became public, Raiders pass rusher Yannick Ngakoue was asked how Black players on the team felt about Gruden’s description of Smith. He replied: “No comment”. In June, Ngakoue’s teammate Carl Nassib became the first active NFL player to come out as gay. At the time, Gruden told ESPN: “I learned a long time ago what makes a man different is what makes him great.”

In other emails that surfaced on Monday, Gruden called NFL commissioner Roger Goodell a “faggot” and a “clueless anti football pussy”; said Eric Reid, one of the first players to kneel alongside Colin Kaepernick during the national anthem in protest at police brutality, should be fired; called then Vice-President Joe Biden a “nervous clueless pussy”; and exchanged photos of women wearing only bikini bottoms.

Gruden is known for his pugnacious, outspoken personality and won the Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 2002 season. He later became a mainstay in the ESPN commentary booth before resuming his coaching career with the Raiders in 2018.