The saddest irony, of course, is that one of Jon Gruden’s Raiders, Carl Nassib, became the first active openly gay NFL player back in June, and when summoned the courage to end years of agonizing over it, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement:
“The NFL family is proud of Carl for courageously sharing his truth today. Representation matters. We share his hope that someday soon statements like his will no longer be newsworthy as we march toward full equality for the LGBTQ+ community. We wish Carl the best of luck this coming season.”
The Raiders tweeted: “Proud of you Carl,” and members of the NFL brotherhood including Saquon Barkley seconded that emotion.
And you wonder today what Jon Gruden truly harbored in his heart when he told ESPN: “I learned a long time ago what makes a man different is what makes him great.”
Gruden resigned on Monday night four years into his 10-year, $100 million contract because Raiders owner Mark Davis knew, as everyone came to know, that this was a man who no longer deserved to protect an NFL grown more progressive in its long-overdue quest for social justice for all.
Gruden resigned on Monday night because of a series of shocking and wildly disturbing and archaic emails the New York Times revealed he sent from 2011-18 to a former Washington Football Team executive named Bruce Allen that have no place in society, much less the NFL, and never did.
In a league that better-late-than-never now heralds the promotion of females in the workplace and on the field, that strains to validate its Rooney Rule that seeks the hiring of more black head coaches, that opened its arms and hearts and minds in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and too many other black men and women, Gruden revealed himself as a misogynistic and homophobic soul trapped in a Neanderthal time warp, a walking, talking, venom-spewing anachronism.
He lashed out in the emails at NFL owners, coaches and media, he called Goodell a “fa—t,” and a “clueless anti football p—y,” railed against former Rams coach Jeff Fisher for drafting “queers” following the club’s selection of Michael Sam in 2014. He was forced to apologize to NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith, who is black, for writing Allen: “Dumboriss Smith has lips the size of michellin tires.” On and on and on.
And here’s the other irony: the late, great Al Davis was Mark Davis’ father. It was Al Davis of the Oakland Raiders who hired the first modern-era black coach, Art Shell, in 1989 and Amy Trask who became the league’s first female chief executive eight years later. It was Al Davis who was years ahead of virtually everyone when it came to racial diversity: Just Equality, Baby.
Al Davis presumably was rolling over in his Silver & Black grave on Monday night: he hired the young Jon Gruden once, actually traded him to the Bucs, where Gruden won Super Bowl XXXVII, for a bounty of draft picks.
“It brings tears to my eyes at how many things he was able to do,” Mark Davis once told the Mercury News. “He did it because it was the right thing to do, not because people wanted him to do it. People deserved the opportunity and he believed in that.”
Gruden, who will be replaced as Raiders head coach by Rich Bisaccia, on Monday night issued the following statement: “I have resigned as Head Coach of the Las Vegas Raiders. 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.”
Unfortunately for him, unfortunately for the team he loved, unfortunately for Carl Nassib and for everyone who believes in equality, racial and otherwise, inside the NFL and out, he did.
A good day for zero tolerance in the NFL. Jon Gruden had to go. Good riddance.
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