Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden resigned on National Coming Out Day immediately following additional revelations about racist, misogynistic, and homophobic remarks he made in emails over the course of several years while he was an analyst on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football.”
Gruden, already facing widespread condemnation for his racist emails about NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith, directed homophobic slurs at NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and further ripped the commissioner for pressuring then-St. Louis Rams head coach Jeff Fisher to draft “queers,” referring to out gay former player Michael Sam, according to emails obtained by the New York Times.
Gruden’s emails also criticized the rise of women referees in the NFL and called for the firing of an NFL player, Eric Reid, for kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial injustice. Among other unhinged comments, Gruden in 2012 called Joe Biden — then vice president — a “nervous clueless pussy” and mocked Caitlyn Jenner, the New York Times reported. The specific language he used in that email was not immediately clear.
“I have resigned as Head Coach of the Las Vegas Raiders,” Gruden said in a written statement following his resignation on October 11. “I love the Raiders and do not want to be a distraction. Thank you to all the players, coaches, staff, and fans of Raider Nation. I’m sorry, I never meant to hurt anyone.”
The comments were revealed at at a time when Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib is in the midst of an historic season as the first out gay player to play an NFL game in the regular season. Sam was the first out gay player to be drafted in the NFL, though he never made it to the regular season after stints with the Rams and Dallas Cowboys.
Gruden’s abrupt resignation was announced live on the Colts/Ravens “Monday Night Football” broadcast when the NFL ran multiple LGBTQ-inclusive advertisements, including one featuring an NFL logo wrapped in the colors of the Trans Flag and Rainbow Flag.
RK Russell, a former NFL player who came out as bisexual after playing for the Cowboys, Buccaneers, and Bills, reacted on Twitter hours after Gruden’s resignation.
“My thoughts and prayers go out to Carl Nassib, the countless closeted NFL players, female staff, Black people, and people of color who have and continue to work in environments where they feel unwelcome and unwanted,” Russell wrote. “The NFL will change because you all deserve better.”
The emails, discovered by the league as part of a separate probe into the Washington Football Team, were delivered during exchanges between 2010 and 2018 with former Washington Football Team president Bruce Allen as well as several businesspeople, including Hooters co-founder Ed Droste, executive Jim McVay, and PDQ restaurants founder Nick Reader. Gruden and Allen had a friendship dating back to their time together with the Raiders during Gruden’s first go-around as head coach of the team from 1998 to 2001.
In 2002, Gruden was traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — a rarity in sports — and served as the team’s head coach until he was fired after the 2008 season. Allen eventually left the Raiders and joined Gruden in Tampa, where he became the Buccaneers’ general manager. Allen subsequently served as the Washington Football Team’s general manager and president.
Gruden returned to the Raiders as head coach in 2018 and signed a 10-year, $100 million deal, meaning he is squandering tens of millions of dollars with his resignation. Minutes after 10 p.m. EST on October 11, Davis announced he accepted Gruden’s resignation.
Gruden first came under fire on October 8 when the Wall Street Journal published a report about his racist email about Smith — which he had sent to Allen. The owner of Raiders, Mark Davis, publicly denounced Gruden’s comments as “disturbing” and said the team was “addressing the matter with Coach Gruden and will have no further comment at this time.”
Gruden went on to coach in the team’s 20-9 loss to the Bears on October 10 — one day before the other batch of emails surfaced. The league shared the emails with the Raiders a week prior to the emergence of the additional emails.
Rich Bisaccia, who served as Gruden’s assistant special teams coordinator with the Buccaneers and again with the Raiders, stepped in as interim head coach following Gruden’s resignation.
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