NFL must work harder to fix the hate behind these Jon Gruden emails
The NFL is far from perfect when it comes to getting ahead. It’s clear when you look at everything from the league normalization of life-changing concussions to its management of Colin Kaepernick’s activism to his terrible history of domestic violence and his latest scandal, the emails from Jon Gruden.
The Las Vegas Raiders the head coach resigned this week after the emails he sent between 2010 and 2018 while hosting Monday night football, surfaced. In the exchanges, Gruden repeatedly used racist, misogynistic and homophobic language, and criticized the decision to draft NFL’s first gay player, Michael Sam, in 2011.
Gruden has repeatedly used homophobic slurs describing the NFL commissioner, and suggested that the commissioner pressured a team to write “queers” in reference to Sam.
Hours after the emails came out, Gruden resigned, sharing a short statement.
âI love the Raiders and I don’t want to be a distraction,â he wrote. “I’m sorry, I never intended to hurt anyone.”
Obviously, Gruden had to go. But he didn’t really apologize for the content of those emails. He didn’t explain why they were wrong, or if his attitudes had changed. And the league has not indicated that it will do anything to eliminate these kinds of hateful attitudes in the future, or the ranks of professional footballers who still believe that occasional homophobia, sexism and racism are acceptable.
Homophobia is still a problem in sport
In a a recent study from Ohio University, rThe researchers spoke to 4,000 American adults about their experiences interacting with sports. Half of LGBTQ2S + respondents said they had experienced discrimination, name calling, harassment or abuse while playing, watching or talking about sports.
Researchers have also found that athletes themselves are leading the charge when it comes to normalizing homosexuality in sports, while fans and coaches are more likely to assume heterosexuality.
âAt best, it can create embarrassing and uncomfortable situations for LGBTQ people. At worst, these assumptions can make athletes, coaches and fans more comfortable openly slandering LGBTQ people, âthe study authors wrote in The Conversation.
At the corporate brand level, the NFL tries to put on a rainbow face. In June, the league tweeted a video with phrases such as âfootball is gay,â âfootball is strong,â and âfootball is transgender,â as well as a pledge to donate to The Trevor Project.
âIf you like this game you’re welcome here,â the final caption reads. âFootball is for everyone. Football is for everyone.
The video came in the wake of Carl Nassib being released as gay. A defensive end for the Raiders, Nassib became the first active NFL player to come out (Sam was never part of a regular season roster). The fact that Nassib is playing for the Raiders is a bit of a cruel irony given Gruden’s actions.
Nassib has not spoken publicly since the Gruden emails leaked, but took a personal day away from the team on Wednesday.
The “Football is gay” message and celebration of Nassib’s exit came with little recognition of how the league treated Sam. There was no supporting video at the time – and it didn’t. not even show how badly the league handled Colin Kaepernick on his knees for the national anthem and others anti-black racism issues team leaders, coaches and officials.
All of this controversy has come and gone with little response from league officials. Former NFL player Ryan O’Callaghan, who came out after retiring from football, Recount United States today that Gruden’s emails weren’t a surprise.
“It doesn’t matter when he said the f word or used [homophobic] insults, it’s never okay, âO’Callaghan said. âMy hope is that he has educated himself since then to know better. But part of it is not surprising. I used to hear “no homo” type comments in the NFL and slurs in the locker room growing up. If we dig into others [coachesâ] trash, it would be interesting to see what we find.
When appearing on the show this weekO’Callaghan said he was disappointed with Gruden’s brief statement and wanted to know more about how to apologize or move forward.
âThe majority of these emails are from ten years ago, and I’m the type of person who believes in growth,â O’Callaghan said. âPeople change and I wanted to hear specific things he learned over the past decade, why his language was offensive. You know, having Carl Nassib, the first openly gay player, on the team. It may have changed his perspective on LGBTQ gamers.
But instead, Gruden apologized in two lines and was out. And while questions remain as to why Gruden was allowed to coach last Sunday despite the early leak of a racist email, there is surprisingly little from the league regarding what they will do to help. make sure this does not happen again.
No diversity and equity training announced for coaches. No public message of support for Nassib and other gay players. No real explanation as to why what Gruden said was so wrong.
It’s laughable to think that Jon Gruden is the only high profile character in the NFL to have sent these kinds of emails; these are just the ones that have leaked out, and his career is in tatters as a result. Somewhere in boardrooms, group chats, and private planes, the old NFL guard breathes a sigh of relief that she isn’t caught this time around.
In a statement released this week, GLAAD communications director Rich Ferraro said the emails are a stark reminder of how far the NFL has yet to travel.
âEven though the first gay player competes in the Raiders and receives broad support from fans and teammates, accountability is needed to ensure that all athletes can compete without discrimination and harassment,â said Ferraro. âGruden’s anti-LGBTQ and misogynistic emails, which have gone unchecked for years, are a worrying reminder of the work that remains to be done to improve inclusion and acceptance in sport at all levels . “
Hopefully Gruden’s downfall is a wake-up call not only to fanatics, but also to the people who employ them, laugh at them and tolerate them.
Something needs to change in the NFL. Getting rid of Jon Gruden is just the start.