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Raiders coach Jon Gruden resigns after reports of derogatory language in emails

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Jon Gruden resigned last night as the head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders, and it's not because his team is losing. Years' worth of emails surfaced in which Gruden used racist, misogynistic and homophobic language. Gruden is a big name in the NFL. He led Tampa Bay to a Super Bowl victory back in 2003. He was also a popular TV football analyst. Joining me now to talk about this, NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman. Good morning.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Hi, Rachel.

MARTIN: Explain what happened.

GOLDMAN: Well, last Friday, it was revealed that Jon Gruden sent an email in 2011 in which he used racist language to refer to the NFL players union head DeMaurice Smith, who is Black. And at the time, it appeared to be a bad yet isolated incident from a decade ago. Then yesterday, The New York Times reported it wasn't isolated. The report said the NFL accumulated a bunch of emails stemming from the league's investigation into workplace misconduct at the Washington Football Team. The emails were between Gruden and former Washington Team president Bruce Allen and sometimes several others in the email group, all high-powered white men.

And in the emails, over about a seven-year period, Gruden lashed out at people in and around the NFL, including Commissioner Roger Goodell. He railed against player protests during the national anthem, the advent of women referees, the drafting of an openly gay player in 2014. And Gruden, who was celebrated by fans over the years for his snarly tough-guy football image, he used homophobic and misogynistic language as he railed, according to this New York Times report.

MARTIN: And so all of this comes out. And then, I mean, it just wasn't that long before Gruden resigned. This all happened very fast.

GOLDMAN: It sure did. He had what was reported an emotional meeting with Las Vegas Raiders owner Mark Davis, who in 2018 lured Gruden back into coaching after nearly a decade as a TV football analyst. And after their meeting, Gruden released a statement announcing his resignation, saying he didn't want to be a distraction and quote, "I'm sorry, I never meant to hurt anyone." But chances are he did. This is a league where nearly 70% of players are African American, and on Gruden's Raiders, his now former team, Carl Nassib, is the first openly gay active player.

MARTIN: So what's the reaction been like to this?

GOLDMAN: A lot on Twitter. One reaction of note from former NFL player Emmanuel Acho - he tweeted, Jon Gruden had to go immediately and not one person should blame cancel culture. This is called accountability. Acho also recorded a short statement, and here's part of it.

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EMMANUEL ACHO: This is why it's imperative to have minorities as voices and faces in positions of power in society so you don't have rampant ignorance running around like this.

MARTIN: So what he says there about the need for people of color and women to be in positions of power, I mean, the NFL has been lambasted for years over this, Tom.

GOLDMAN: It certainly has - a lack of representation in the league, positions of power, the coaching ranks, the front offices. And there's been valid criticism on other fronts as well - the league being slow to react on the issue of domestic violence, the league essentially banning Colin Kaepernick for his protest during the national anthem, protests against social injustice and police brutality. And in recent years, the NFL's been trying to answer the criticisms and show it's changing. So, Rachel, you can see why Jon Gruden is gone so quickly. Everything he reportedly said in these emails flew in the face of what the NFL's trying to do. An ironic illustration of that - during last night's Monday Night Football game, at halftime, when they were all talking about Gruden's resignation, they broke for a commercial, and it was about the NFL's support for The Trevor Project, a suicide prevention organization for LGBTQ youth. The ad had the taglines, football is accepting, football is for everyone.

MARTIN: NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman, thank you.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.