Jon Gruden, the head coach for the Las Vegas Raiders – and who led Tampa Bay to a Super Bowl victory – has apologized for using racist imagery to describe an NFL players’ representative’s lips as ‘the size of Michelin tires’ in an email he sent in 2011, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.
‘Dumboriss Smith has lips the size of michellin (sp) tires,’ Gruden wrote in the email about National Football League Players Association’s Executive Director DeMaurice Smith, who is black.
Gruden, who was working as the analyst for ESPN’s Monday Night Football at the time, was contrite about the offensive email, which was sent to a team executive, Bruce Allen, ten years ago.
‘I was upset,’ Gruden told the news outlet. ‘I used a horrible way of explaining it.’
The 58-year-old coach added that in the past, he has referred to people he believes are lying as ‘rubber lipped,’ and that the language he used in the email took it ‘too far,’ according to the Journal.
‘Dumboriss Smith has lips the size of michellin (sp) tires,’ Raiders coach Jon Gruden, pictured, wrote in the email of NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith, who is black
Pictured: DeMaurice Smith claims the incident is far from the first time he’s experienced racism on the job, and added that it ‘probably will not be the last’
‘I don’t think he’s dumb. I don’t think he’s a liar,’ said Gruden, who first served as the Raiders’ head coach from 1998 to 2001 when the team was based in Oakland before rejoining the team in 2018.
He won the Super Bowl as coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2003 and worked for ESPN from 2009 to 2017.
‘I don’t have a racial bone in my body, and I’ve proven that for 58 years,’ Gruden said.
The email was sent at a time when the NFL and its players were working to resolve a lockout, which was imposed by the league’s owners from March 12, 2011 to July 25, 2011.
On July 21, just days before the lockout ended, NFL franchise owners had voted to ratify a new collective bargaining agreement, of which the players opted out of voting.
Gruden was working as a color analyst for ESPN’s Monday Night Football (pictured) at the time of the email
Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden during an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins, Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021, in Las Vegas
Gruden admitted the lockout had angered him at the time, and that he did not trust the NFL players, who Smith represented in the negotiations.
Meanwhile, Smith claims the incident is far from the first time he’s experienced racism on the job, and added that it ‘probably will not be the last.’
‘This is a thick skin job for someone with dark skin, just like it always has been for many people who look like me and work in corporate America,’ Smith said in a statement.
‘You know people are sometimes saying things behind your back that are racist just like you see people talk and write about you using thinly coded and racist language.’
‘The content of an email regarding DeMaurice Smith from Jon Gruden when he worked for ESPN 10 years ago is disturbing and not what the Raiders stand for,’ the team’s owner tweeted
The NFL is currently reviewing the situation to determine any potential discipline against Gruden, a source close to the matter told the Journal.
Mark Davis, the principal owner and managing general partner of the Raiders, called Gruden’s email ‘disturbing’ while adding that its contents ‘are not what the Raiders stand for.’
‘The content of an email regarding DeMaurice Smith from Jon Gruden when he worked for ESPN 10 years ago is disturbing and not what the Raiders stand for,’ the tweet read.
‘We were first made aware of the email late yesterday by a reporter and are reviewing it along with other materials provided to us today by the NFL.’
Pictured: Mark Davis, the principal owner and managing general partner of the Raiders, called Gruden’s email ‘disturbing’ while adding that its contents ‘are not what the Raiders stand for’
‘We are addressing the matter with Coach Gruden and will have no further comment at this time.’
The timing of the news comes just days after the NFLPA’s executive committee’s vote on Tuesday night, which was held to determine if Smith should remain the association’s executive director, a position he’s held since March 2009, according to ESPN.
The committee, made up of 14 members, was evenly split with seven votes to keep Smith on board and seven votes against it.
NFLPA’s 32 team player representatives voted Friday evening to retain Smith as executive director of the player’s association for what will be his final term, the Athletic reported.