Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden used a racist trope to describe NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith in a 2011 email, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal on Friday.
In the email, which was sent during the 2011 lockout, Gruden wrote that: “Dumboriss [sic] Smith has lips the size of michellin [sic] tires.”
Gruden told the newspaper that he did not recall sending the email in question and apologized for it. He added that he sometimes describes people as having “rubber lips” when he thinks they are lying.
“I used a horrible way of explaining it,” Gruden told The Wall Street Journal.
“I don’t think he’s dumb. I don’t think he’s a liar. … I don’t have a racial bone in my body, and I’ve proven that for 58 years.”
Smith, meanwhile, told the newspaper that the email is not the first racist comment he’s heard “and it probably will not be the last.”
“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,” he said. “I’m sorry my family has to see something like this but I would rather they know. I will not let it define me.”
Gruden said he has reached out to Smith but has yet to hear back from him.
The NFL became aware of the email as part of an investigation into the Washington Football Team, which concluded this summer.
League spokesperson Brian McCarthy confirmed to USA TODAY Sports on Friday that investigators informed the NFL about emails that “raised issues beyond the scope of that investigation” and that league executives had been reviewing them, at commissioner Roger Goodell’s direction. He added that the league is sharing the emails pertaining to Gruden with Raiders executives.
“The email from Jon Gruden denigrating DeMaurice Smith is appalling, abhorrent and wholly contrary to the NFL’s values,” McCarthy said in a statement. “We condemn the statement and regret any harm that its publication may inflict on Mr. Smith or anyone else.”
The Wall Street Journal reported that the 2011 email from Gruden, who was working for ESPN at the time, was sent to then-Washington team president Bruce Allen. Allen previously worked as an executive with both the Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers when Gruden was their head coach.
In a statement released later Friday, Raiders owner Mark Davis called the contents of Gruden’s email “disturbing” and “not what the Raiders stand for.”
“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,” Davis said. “We are addressing the matter with Coach Gruden and will have no further comment at this time.”
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