Podcast notes for 10.10.21
WSJ Initial Report: On July 21, 2011, the National Football League and its players were working to resolve a lockout that threatened the upcoming season.
That same day, Jon Gruden—the current Las Vegas Raiders coach who has been one of the most prominent figures in the NFL over the past two decades—sent an email about DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the NFL Players Association, to a team executive. Gruden’s email described Smith with a racist trope common in anti-Black imagery.
“Dumboriss Smith has lips the size of michellin tires,” he wrote in the email reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.
Fox5 Las Vegas:
“The NFL reacted strongly and quickly Friday to a report that Jon Gruden used a racist comment about NFL Players Association leader DeMaurice Smith in an email 10 years ago.:
MZ: Reacted strongly? By releasing a statement. The NFL and the Raiders would be the first to admit they have not acted yet. They are "in talks" and "investigating" aka biding time to gauge the temperature in the room to determine the most prudent next steps.
The statement calling the email abhorrent was the bare minimum the NFL & the Raiders could do. We will see the actions they opt to take going forward. But they haven’t “reacted” yet at all, let alone strongly.
All initial reports citing the WSJ story – ESPN, Fox Sports - referred to the comment as a "racial trope" rather than a racist comment. New language for old things.
Doug Gottlieb of Fox Sports Radio:
"If you said that 10 years ago in a room full of blacks you were going to get you butt whooped, you just were."
MZ: That is a racist trope, by the way.
Anonymous defender s(and also Gottlieb): ‘But Gruden has been a coach for 40 years and no one's ever called him a racist.’
So what. Don't care.
I don’t even want to make the claim that Gruden is a racist or even a bad guy. I think he chose to actions that should disbar him from his current position in a league that is 80% black, that has historically and systematically taken advantage of its players for their own profit (concussions & the hiding of pertinent info about them are just the tip of the iceberg.)
What does 40 years without anyone outwardly accusing Gruden of being racist even mean, really?
Lots of great Americans were racist by the way. That’s a historical fact. Where is the big expose on FDR's racism? Spoiler alert: America and most Americans were racist not that long ago. The fact that it didn't come up during Jon Gruden's rise through the ranks as the son of a prominent football coach that always has had protection & power - that's not surprising. Or important.
I want to separate the act of racism and white supremacy from the name-calling. He’s a racist!
I firmly believe we are all racist to various degrees. We are consciously and unconsciously bias and incorrect in our thinking do to explicit and implicit assumptions we make about individuals based on what we think we know about their larger cultural groups.
Jon Gruden may one of the least racist coaches in the NFL. Again, I don’t care. That's doesn't make up for the fact that he used his power and status to collude with other white executives to disparage and discredit the #1 black man of authority in the NFL – so that the lockout would end and the status quo would continue. I once defend “whiteness” in a paper, as an innate beneficiary of the status quo. Gruden using racist imagery to underline the fact he thinks DeMaurice Smith is dumb and untrustworthy during Player/Owner negotiations. That is white supremacy working -- consciously in this case or not. That is what closet racist are praying is happening behind the scenes.
Let's talk about Gruden's supposed apology:
Mina Kimes on PTI was dead on. The first thing she said to open the show his explanation didn't make any sense. He said he often called people "rubber lips" to describe tehm as liars.
Ok, even if we do pretend that is a phrase -- It's not one of the first two definitions on Urban Dictionary - the email didn't describe someone with "rubber lips". It described a person dumb (and untrustworthy is the subtext) that had comically big lips. In other words, "we all know those kinds of people and what we can expect from them."
-Tony Kornheiser aside, comments about women on PTI in 2012-
Let's talk about the context:
Pro Football Talk analyst Mike Florio & Myles Simmons tried to play the party line - which is illustrative of just how popular Jon Gruden is in the media. Even black guys are walking on egg shells to not throw him under the bus too much.
Simmons - a black man - said, paraphrasing "It doesn't matter the context, or who you said it to - any time you used racial language their is a going to be a backlash." Simmons went on to say it doesn't matter if its in a text or in an email or in person.
I could not disagree more strongly. Yes, racist language of this stripe in my opinion has no place anywhere. But to act like during billion dollar negotiations disparaging the #1 black authority in the NFL (representing a league that is 80% black) that Gruden's comment isn't particularly egregious misses the entire concept of systematic racism.
DeMaurice Smith - who's contract just got renewed on the same day this story came out - put it best in his comments to the Wall Street Journal, in their original report:
SMITH, Executive Director of the NFL Players Association:
“This is not the first racist comment that I’ve heard and it probably will not be the last. This is a thick skin job for someone with dark skin, just like it always has been for many people who look like me and work in corporate America,” Smith said. “You know people are sometimes saying things behind your back that are racist just like you see people talk and write about you using thinly coded and racist language.”
“Racism like this comes from the fact that I’m at the same table as they are and they don’t think someone who looks like me belongs,” Smith said. “I’m sorry my family has to see something like this but I would rather they know. I will not let it define me.”
It is the action I care about. Whether or not someone pops up a joke at black people's expense means little to me. The act - the attempt - of systmetically disbarring black men of authority is deplorable and - even though it was 10 years ago and he wasn't in the league - in my opinion - it is a fireable offense.
He's also not a good coach. 26 games under .500 over the last 18 years. No playoff wins of consequence.