Jon Gruden got his comeuppance Monday night, and it was swift.
The New York Times published an article at 8:16 p.m. detailing several crude, misogynistic, and homophobic e-mails from Gruden. By 9:01 p.m., NFL Network reported that Gruden had resigned as Raiders coach, less than four full years into a 10-year contract.
The e-mails were among the 650,000 the NFL discovered in its investigation into the workplace culture of the Washington Football Team. Gruden was not the target of the investigation, but his e-mails were sent to former Washington president Bruce Allen, who worked with Gruden two decades ago and is a longtime friend.
Gruden undoubtedly got what he deserved. Though the e-mails were sent several years ago while he worked for ESPN, the Raiders and the NFL couldn’t have Gruden serving as a face of the league — certainly not in 2021, when the league makes a priority of its “Inspire Change” initiative and paints “End Racism” and “It Takes All of Us” in the end zones.
But Gruden is not the only one who should be forced to account for his actions. The Raiders, the Washington Football Team, and the NFL have a lot of explaining to do, too.
Most pointedly, why is Gruden the only person taking any shrapnel from the yearlong investigation into Washington’s workplace culture? The NFL’s punishment of owner Dan Snyder was laughable when it was announced on July 1, and looks even more absurd now that Gruden’s e-mails have been leaked.
Where are Snyder’s e-mails? Surely he must have had a few among the 650,000 acquired by “independent” investigator Beth Wilkinson, who was hired by the NFL.
And why did the NFL not allow Wilkinson to provide a written report of her entire investigation? You know, like the 243-page report Ted Wells authored on the Patriots’ alleged ball-deflating scheme.
Washington was fined $10 million and Snyder had to cede control of the team “for at least the next several months,” but that was it. The person who received control of the team was Snyder’s wife, Tanya. Snyder wasn’t formally suspended, and he showed up to the Aug. 12 preseason game and sat in the owners’ box. He has wisely kept his face out of the public sphere since then.
Wilkinson was told to give a verbal report to NFL leadership, but none of her findings were printed in ink. There was no public mention of any of the several dozen sexual harassment allegations made against Snyder and his football team, nor of the $1.6 million workplace misconduct settlement Snyder paid to a former female employee in 2009.
The NFL forced former Panthers owner Jerry Richardson out of its exclusive club late in 2017 when several allegations of sexual harassment came to light. Yet Snyder got a slap on the wrist and full protection from the NFL. It’s outrageous and disgraceful.
The Raiders also have some explaining to do. Owner Mark Davis stood by Gruden last week when one racist e-mail from Gruden denigrating NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith came to light. But Davis also had in his possession the homophobic and sexist e-mails that the New York Times published Monday.
Still, Davis let Gruden coach the Raiders in their 20-9 loss to the Bears on Sunday. Gruden should have been dismissed last week. Apparently, Gruden’s conduct was offensive to Davis only because it was printed by the Times.
The Raiders were the subject of positive press over the last few months when defensive end Carl Nassib became the first active player to come out as gay. But Davis’s actions — or lack thereof — cheapen everything the Raiders are trying to accomplish from an inclusion and social justice standpoint.
If the NFL had any scruples, the contents of Wilkinson’s investigation would be made public, Snyder would be forced to sell his team, and Davis would take some heat for harboring a coach who stands completely against the league’s values. It is shameful that none of this accountability has happened yet.
As for Gruden, his career is done — as a coach, commentator, and public figure. There’s no coming back from this. The Buccaneers on Tuesday announced that they have removed him from the team’s Ring of Honor at Raymond James Stadium. I spoke to a close associate of Gruden’s on Monday night, and let’s just say that no one who knows Gruden well is surprised at the contents of his e-mails, which were sent in the years before he was hired by the Raiders in 2018.
The e-mails reveal the real, unvarnished Gruden, not the more polished version we see on the podium four days per week. They portray him as a cartoonishly cliché “football guy,” who stood against everything the NFL has tried to accomplish over the last decade: hiring women as officials, welcoming openly gay players, protesting systemic racism, and making football safer to try to reduce concussions. Monday’s fresh batch of e-mails came on top of the one released late last week in which Gruden used racist tropes to describe Smith.
Clearly, Gruden made some enemies, and someone wanted him exposed.
But Gruden is not the only one who should be getting his comeuppance. Let’s see Snyder’s e-mails. Let’s allow Wilkinson to reveal the contents of her investigation. And let’s punish Davis, too, for standing by Gruden for too long.
The lack of transparency is insulting for a league that has instituted wide-ranging diversity hiring guidelines via the Rooney Rule, and has embraced the social justice movement. It cuts against everything the NFL has tried to accomplish over the last several years.
The league needs to do more than just send Gruden packing to reverse a deep-seated culture of homophobia, misogyny, and sexism that has prevailed for decades.
Open the windows, let the sunshine in, and let it disinfect the NFL.
Ben Volin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.