Last Friday a leaked email sent by Raiders head coach Jon Gruden was revealed in a report by the Wall Street Journal. In the email, Gruden said NFLPA President DeMaurice Smith had “lips the size of Michelin tires.” Which is considered by many to be a racist trope about black people.
Mark Davis put out a statement a short time later, calling Gruden’s words “disturbing”.
“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. 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. We are addressing the matter with Coach Gruden and will have no further comment at this time.”
Sunday, following the Raiders’ loss to the Bears at Allegiant Stadium, Gruden had his chance to speak on it.
“All I can tell you is I’m not a racist,” Gruden said in his defense. “I can’t tell you how sick I am. I apologize again to De Smith, but I feel good about who I am and what I’ve done my entire life. I apologize for the insensitive remarks. I had no racial intentions with those remarks at all. . . I’m not like that at all.”
Prior to this, Gruden had defended his words by saying that he refers to people who don’t tell the truth as having rubber lips. Which seems to be what he’s suggesting when he says his words had no racial intentions.
Just talked to Jon Gruden. He doesn’t remember the emails but “certainly I will take accountability for it if it was on my email.” Said he was upset about the lockout and that he refers to liars as having “rubber lips.” He has reached out to Smith to apologize.
— Vic Tafur (@VicTafur) October 8, 2021
There is a lot of skepticism from around the media world about Gruden’s reasoning behind his words. Some have never heard of the term ‘rubber lips’ to refer to a liar (myself included) while others are noting the distinction that he said Smith’s lips were the “size” of Michelin tires.
Gruden addressed his players this week just prior to the report coming out to try and get ahead of it. Several of those players were asked following the team’s 20-9 loss to the Bears Sunday if the report was a distraction at all, and all of them said they put it behind them. Josh Jacobs added “It was ten years ago. People grow.”
Gruden said that he doesn’t want to keep addressing this issue, but it doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon. At least not until there is some kind of resolution, either from the organization or the league.