Jon Gruden used racist remarks to explain NFLPA chief DeMaurice Smith, WSJ says

Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden reacts to the crowd during warm-up practice prior to a preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks at Allegiant Stadium on August 14, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Ethan Miller | Getty Images

Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden described the head of the National Football League Players Association in racist language, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.

Gruden used anti-black images to describe NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith in an email sent to a team leader on July 21, 2011, the Journal said.

“Dumboriss Smith has lips the size of Michelin tires,” Gruden wrote in the email to Bruce Allen, former president of the franchise now known as the Washington Football Team, the Journal reported.

The NFL is reviewing Gruden’s status with the Raiders for possible disciplinary action, the Journal reported, citing a source familiar with the matter.

In response to reporting on Gruden’s comment, Smith said this was not the first racist comment he was exposed to and “probably won’t be the last”.

“This is a thick skin job for someone with dark skin, just as it has always been for a lot of people who look like me and work in America,” Smith said in a statement. “You know that sometimes people say racist things behind your back, just as you see people talking and writing about you in thinly coded and racist language.”

When Gruden sent the email, the NFL and its players were trying to break out a lockout, the Journal reported. It was a work stoppage imposed by the league’s owners that lasted from March 12, 2011 to July 25, 2011.

In this file photo dated July 25, 2011, NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith (left) and NFL Football Commissioner Roger Goodell attend a press conference at the NFL Players Association in Washington.

Carolyn Kaster | AP photo

While the owners of the NFL voted to ratify a new collective bargaining agreement on July 21, the players declined to vote.

According to the Journal, Gruden cited the lockout because it upset him at the time of his racist remarks. He said he doesn’t trust the attitude of Smith-led NFL players in the negotiations.

Gruden added that he has referred to people who he believes are lying as “rubber lips” in the past and that he has taken it “too far,” according to the Journal.

“I was upset,” Gruden told the journal. “I explained it in a terrible way.”

“I don’t think he’s stupid. I don’t think he’s a liar,” said Gruden. “I don’t have a racial bone in my body, and I’ve been proving it for 58 years.”

The revelation of Gruden’s comment comes as Smith’s position as executive director of the NFLPA is pending.

On Tuesday evening, the NFLPA Executive Committee voted on whether Smith could stay in the job he has held for the past 12 years, ESPN reported on Wednesday. The 14-member committee was divided equally with 7 to 7 votes.

The NFLPA’s 32 team player representatives will vote on Smith’s status on Friday at 6 p.m. ET, according to ESPN.

– CNBC’s Jabari Young contributed to this report.

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