Oakland, Los Angeles, Las Vegas head football coach Jon Gruden resigned Sunday from his job after emails surfaced (were leaked by the NFL home office, let’s be clear) showing him to be who many Black players have long said he is: a pompous, racist, self-important bigot.
Those players were ridiculed, dismissed, called malcontents and locker room cancers by the sports media and team representatives. In other words, the league refused for years of to listen to the people who worked closest with Gruden – his own players.
The emails John Gruden sent to his longtime friend and peer, and NFL executive, Bruce Allen, displayed all the “intelligence” coach Gruden is known for by Black players, but which has long been ignored by the NFL hierarchy and the white male pundits who cover the NFL for CBS, NBC, ABC, and ESPN, and of course by the NFL’s own network.
Jon Gruden wasn’t fired or asked to resign when the first email was leaked. In that email he referred to player’s rep DeMaurice F. Smith’s lips with a racist insult. Racism rarely results in consequences in America or the NFL, despite racists believing they are always held accountable even though there’s 400 years of history proving them wrong, so Jon got a temporary pass that would only last a few hours.
The next email showed good old boy Jon calling an audible and complaining about the NFL hiring a woman as a referee. As if watching grown men chasing a ball, tackling, running, and incessantly complaining to stoic referees can only be judged by men.
On Sunday as his team again looked terrible in their second consecutive loss, it was rumored the email revelations caused Jon to lose the locker room – which is sports-slang for men are gossiping about the coach like they are The Real Housewives of Las Vegas.
But the Raiders did not respond and Jon made his typical excuses following his team’s latest loss.
That’s when the NFL released still more emails that resulted in Jon completing the super bowl of coach flameouts: He called the commissioner the worst homophobic slur there is, and also said another executive should suck his….D. And I don’t mean “defense.”
So, since it is about halftime in this article, let’s check the score:
Jon Gruden: Racist, Misogynistic, Homophobic on email, and a long history of being a jerk to many Black players.
NFL: Colin Kaepernick still banned for kneeling in support of racial justice.
The end was near though and during Sunday night football, the Raiders owner, Mark Davis, issued a statement that was shown during the broadcast, stating he had accepted Jon Gruden’s resignation. The announcers downplayed it though as they lightly praised Gruden while tepidly and almost vaguely mentioning why he resigned. Gruden is a former announcer and his former peers remained deferential to him despite Grduen long refusing to be deferential to anyone.
Strange how some people get to resign no matter their offenses, while others are fired, suspended, locked out, and thrown out.
And once the announcement hit the sports airwaves all the usual folks took sides:
Racists, anti-woman, and homophobic folk supported Jon Gruden.
People with actual moral compasses agreed Jon Gruden should lose his job.
Jon Gruden won’t be needing a stimulus check though, as he was just in year four of a ten-year $100-million dollar contract.
And folk who specifically follow football, especially Black fans, know that Jon Gruden will be back.
Jon will take the rest of this season off and by offseason the rehabilitation tour will begin and soon thereafter he will again be on some network’s broadcast team.
If we know anything in this country, it is that “cancel culture” is less powerful than white men failing up because those who hold the power will always provide a safety net for their own.
In a league that is about 70% Black players, the vast majority of coaches, trainers, and team employees are white men. The vast majority football television analysts are white men. Most of the studio folk are white men – though the football television shows do tend to have the most Black men, mostly former players. The television shows also have a few women as well, though in a league that epitomizes and celebrates toxic masculinity, there aren’t any LGBTQI+ hosts – none who have identified as such, that is.
The NFL is a media and advertising monster that is already pushing out all the standard talking points that self-congratulate themselves for their quick action, while asking their fans to move on.
And this Sunday or the following Sunday, the fans will do just that.
How do we know they will move on?
They moved on from Kaepernick with the help of Jay-Z
They moved on from the “Rooney Rule” which honorably sought to ensure Black coaches got interviewed for head coach openings but which did not account for team owners mostly following the letter but not the spirit of the rule
They moved on from murderers Ray Lewis, Aaron Hernandez, Rae Carruth
They moved on from rapists Darren Sharper and Kellen Winslow III
They moved on from racist Richie Incognito
They moved on from underage “activities” by Mark Chmura
They moved on from traumatic brain injuries and CTE
They moved on from team owners cocaine, infidelity, and gambling scandals
The point is, the NFL is full of awful men who do awful things on a regular basis and none of it matters because the NFL remains the most popular American sport – by far.
Some will point to Jon Gruden’s success as a coach as the reason he will be given another chance. They will say that he was a Super Bowl winning coach and that old emails should not derail his career to the point that he is prevented from doing what he loves best – coaching football players.
But a close look shows that Jon Gruden isn’t a very good coach. Oh, he did coach the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a super bowl – but he did so with an already accomplished playoff team with a record-breaking defense. Jon did not assemble the offense or defense. But, credit where it is due, it was he who coached the team.
But a quick look at his overall record shows a mediocre coach:
117-112 win/loss record
Only 6 winning seasons in 15 years, and only 3 winning seasons in the past eleven years.
His record since winning the Super Bowl: 67-71, and 0-2 in the playoffs.
Genius billionaires think a mediocre coach is worth $100 million over ten years because he “fits” the image of what they want in a coach.
Where does the NFL go from here? Nowhere because they are right where the want to be and where the fans need them to be.
They will hype the upcoming Super Bowl halftime show of safe Black artists like Snoop Dog, Dr. Dre, Mary J. Blige, and Kendrick Lamar. They will have their annual Sunday where players where pink to support breast cancer awareness. And they will continue to sponsor Punt, Pass, and Kick competitions for boys and girls.
In short, the NFL isn’t going anywhere, isn’t changing, and isn’t going to suddenly hire more Black coaches or more women to referee the games.
Because for all the noise and furor about Jon Gruden’s emails, it is a fact that his pals the owners turned a deaf ear and blind eye to complaints from players and only acted when Gruden’s antics targeted one of their own.
The motto for the league is “Protect the shield” – the shield being part of their logo. They have done just that by forcing a famous and popular coach to resign.
But more broadly they have protected the shield because the shield protects the owners from real accountability, real change, and real efforts to make the league a safe working environment for all its employees, not just famous mediocre coaches.
© 2021 by Myron J. Clifton. All Rights Reserved.
Myron J. Clifton is slightly older than fifty, lives in Sacramento, California, and is an avid Bay Area sports fan. He likes comic books, telling stories about his late mom to his beloved daughter Leah, and talking to his friends.
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