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Kansas City Chiefs Coach Andy Reid slapped every one of his Black players in the face this week.
He did that by refusing to say any more about his buddy Jon Gruden’s forced resignation over seven years’ worth of racist, homophobic and sexist emails than this: “I think all around it’s a tough deal. So I’m going to just stay away from that, and I just appreciate the courtesy likewise. There’s nothing to be gained … with my remarks.”
“All around it’s a tough deal” is the new “very fine people on both sides.”
That Reid and Gruden go way back only deepens Reid’s obligation to show some loyalty not only to his former colleague but to the guys who work for him right now.
A true friend says, “I love you, but you were 10 kinds of wrong.”
A true leader says, “I love the guy, but hate what’s expressed in those emails.”
To stay silent about a close friend’s racist tropes, with all that’s going on in the NFL, and in the world, is to try to ride a fence that can’t be straddled, and shouldn’t be.
It’s wrong to say nothing about Gruden calling Roger Goodell a “faggot” and “anti-football pussy” for encouraging the Rams to draft “queers.” Any gay players for the Chiefs can’t feel supported by that dodge.
The NFL goes to great expense to promote itself as enlightened.
But Reid’s appeal for the “courtesy” of no unwelcome questions about subjects at the heart of the league’s problems on everything from race to player safety, which Gruden also mocked, only reinforces the enduring perception that it’s a fraternity of white good ol’ boys who protect each other and answer to no one.
It’s one thing not to want to fill reporters in on the strategy for Sunday.
But it’s a betrayal to decline to say anything except “tough deal all around” about such a flagrant example of the racism, homophobia and misogyny that’s endemic in the NFL.
The players deserve better from their coach, even if Chiefs fans won’t ever demand it.