Opinion: Jon Gruden's racist email exposes truth about the man behind 'Coach Chucky' image

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Rubber lips?

Now that’s a new one on me. I’ve heard descriptions such as someone having a “glass jaw” or “two left feet.” And no, I don’t want your “rubber check” to cover the donation pledge.

Yet Jon Gruden hopes you are dumb enough to believe his explanation that the racist metaphor he used in an email to describe NFL Players Association chief DeMaurice Smith was actually a reference to the man’s credibility.

Yeah, right. Now, “Pinocchio Nose” is one that might fit Gruden.

Gruden, the Raiders coach and leader of a squad where roughly three-quarters of the players are Black, was exposed Friday when The Wall Street Journal reported that amid 65,000 emails reviewed during an investigation of the Washington Football Team’s workplace culture amid sexual harassment allegations, was Gruden's message to then-Washington executive Bruce Allen about Smith during the NFL lockout in 2011.

“Dumborris (sic) Smith has lips the size of michellin (sic) tires,” Gruden wrote.

In explaining that, Gruden told the WSJ he didn’t remember that specific email, but allowed that he uses the term “rubber lips” when he believes someone is untruthful. Thus, the connection to Michelin as an attempt to explain his shameful insensitivity to the racist language and images that have been used to denigrate Black people for generations.

Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden
Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden

“I don’t think he’s dumb,” Gruden told the WSJ. “I don’t think he’s a liar … I don’t have a racist bone in my body, and I’ve proven that for 58 years.”

Experience tells me that when someone says, “I’m not racist” to make a point about their innocence, it typically prefaces some comment to the contrary.

In Gruden’s case, he sure proved something with that email. The uncomfortable truth is that Gruden, who at the time in 2011 worked as the high-profile color analyst for ESPN’s “Monday Night Football,” has been exposed for what he is.

Someone who is comfortable enough in his own skin to use a racist metaphor in describing a Black man.

It’s the act of racism that matters, regardless of whether you believe you have a “racist bone” or not in your body.

MORE: Jon Gruden used racist trope in 2011 email about NFL union head DeMaurice Smith

'THIS HURTS ME': Tearful Randy Moss responds to Jon Gruden email

Reminds me of Riley Cooper, the former Eagles receiver who was caught on video a few years ago using a racial slur to a Black security guard. Cooper, like Gruden, contended that he wasn’t racist … although his actions were exposed to prove otherwise.

So, yes, add a layer to the “Coach Chucky” Gruden image as an intense, passionate, fun-loving workaholic.

He’s a moron, too.

Just consider his damage-control effort. He told ESPN that among the emails the NFL discovered was also one in which he used a vulgar term in describing NFL commissioner Roger Goodell – as if that false equivalency would earn him a pass for disparaging Smith.

Funny, Gruden seems to remember talking trash about Goodell but can’t recall dissing Smith.

“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, the NFLPA’s executive director, told the WSJ. “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, who in 2018 lured Gruden back to coaching after repeated attempts with a 10-year, $100 million contract, called the email “disturbing” and maintained that it is “not what the Raiders stand for.” His father, Al Davis, was certainly socially progressive. But the current owner is still, well, working on establishing such a track record. In a statement, Mark Davis said he is “discussing” the matter with Gruden. It’s interesting that he also maintained he didn’t become aware of Gruden’s email or receive it from the NFL until Friday, when the WSJ broke the story.

With that timeline, it seems apparent that the NFL was content to sweep it under the rug – even with a league owner – while also probably burying other information from the secretive investigation into the Washington Football Team that may expose others, such as WFT owner Daniel Snyder. That the Gruden email was leaked seemingly and shamefully provides a measure of cover for Snyder & Co.

Meanwhile, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy called the email “appalling, abhorrent and wholly contrary to the NFL’s values.” Maybe so. But what will the NFL do about it? Don’t hold your breath.

The NFL has a history, too, of stumbling on these types of issues. When Jets owner Woody Johnson, for instance, made insensitive remarks about Black people while serving as ambassador to Great Britain, there was no reprimand from Goodell & Co. I’m doubting there will be any discipline for an action by Gruden during a period when he was employed by an NFL broadcast partner and not a team.

'When will it end?'

Gruden will pay a price, I’d suspect, with his reputation. He has squandered respect and credibility among Black people – and probably with others, too, who embrace equality.

Randy Moss’ tearful reflections during ESPN’s NFL studio show on Sunday morning spoke volumes.

“We talk about leadership,” said Moss, the Hall of Fame receiver. “We give these guys big contracts because they want to be able of (leading) 70 men, coaches, equipment staff and managers to the No. 1 goal, and that’s to win a championship.

“And for us to be moving back and not forward … National Football League, this hurts me.”

Of course, this is bigger than the NFL. Yet Moss, who mentioned that his “civil rights were kind of messed with in high school,” knows that the Gruden episode is yet another example of a heinous mindset that permeates with some throughout society – and victimizes others in myriad ways.

That Gruden has one of the league’s highest profiles makes it the NFL’s problem. The league has for many years carried a shameful record for providing opportunities for people of color to advance to leadership positions as head coaches and top executives. And now this. Makes you wonder about racist thinking of league power brokers that has not been exposed, but undoubtedly exists.

Rod Graves, executive director of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, which "exists to champion diversity in the NFL," amplified as much in a statement while urging the league to take strong action against Gruden.

“The insensitive remarks made by Jon Gruden about DeMaurice Smith are indicative of the racism that exists on many levels of professional sports,” Graves wrote. “Furthermore, it reveals that the journey for African Americans and other minorities in sports, is riddled with irrepressible mindsets at the highest level.

"It is our hope that the League and team ownership will address this matter with a remedy commensurate with these painful words. This is yet another inflection point in a society fraught with cynical social blinders, absent of respect for the intellectual capacity and leadership of minorities. When will it end?”

Maybe it will end when it matters as much to people like Gruden.

Follow USA TODAY Sports' Jarrett Bell on Twitter @JarrettBell.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Jon Gruden's racist email exposes truth about the man behind the image