Who within the league office authorized the release of Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden’s private, decade-old emails that referred to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell as a “f—-t” and a “clueless anti football p—y”?
Deducing the answer does not require an investigation as thorough as the one the league conducted on the Washington Football Team.
That inquiry-turned-fishing-expedition yielded 650,000 emails, including a few sent by Gruden, then out of coaching and working as an ESPN Monday Night Football color commentator. The Gruden missives criticized the pressure on teams to draft a gay player, the league hiring a female official, and then-Vice President Joe Biden as a “nervous clueless p—y.”
Gruden also compared the lips of the African-American head of the players union to Michelin tires — words that the Super Bowl-winning coach insists refer to the man’s alleged rubber-lips mendacity amid a periodic players-owners clash. Gruden’s critics interpret it as a racist crack. If the latter, or even the perception of the latter, it severely handicaps Gruden’s ability to direct a team in an overwhelmingly young and African-American league.
After his team lost in a poor performance last weekend — and the NFL leaked to the New York Times after leaking days earlier to The Wall Street Journal — Chucky resigned, and despite his penchant for Hollywood reincarnation, did so in a way suggesting that we do not see him on the sidelines of the NFL again.
The personal vendetta that parted Gruden, who finally looked on his way toward transforming the Raiders from a doormat to a playoff team this season, from his $100 million contract, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers ring of honor, and a Skechers endorsement deal achieved the immediate objective desired by the obvious yet anonymous tattletale. But in bumming a ride for petty vindictiveness on the totalitarian social-justice zeitgeist, the NFL bigwig who authorized the leak risks unforeseen consequences.
“As it pores through 650,000 emails, the NFL should round up the recipients of Gruden’s rants and out them as well,” William Rhoden writes at The Undefeated. “Tell us who they are. Did they know that Gruden held these views? Did they pass them off, as Donald Trump did during his presidential campaign, as ‘locker room talk?’”
Once a football coach, Jon Gruden now acts as a Rorschach test. Some see Donald Trump when they see him. Others just offer rote denunciations out of I’m-next fear. Inquisitions, witch hunts, and show trials tend to effect humans in ways that make them want to annihilate not just true believers but anyone hearing their proclamations.
A frontpage, above-the-fold Wednesday USA Today headline asks: “What else would NFL emails reveal?” Gruden’s former quarterback, Derek Carr, urges the NFL, long a brazen nemesis of the Raiders but perhaps never more so than here and now, to “open up everything” and not just emails from the Raiders or Redskins. Rhoden insists, “We need to know who these people are. How do we flush them out?”
Why do we need to know the identity of people who received emails that Rhoden, a former colleague of Gruden’s at ESPN, finds distasteful? Why do we need to flush out recipients of 10-year-old messages from a person not then employed in the NFL?
Gruden’s former ESPN colleague Jemele Hill offers an answer in The Atlantic. She says “the NFL has proved quite clearly that it’s neither progressive nor inclusive.” She does not mean that the NFL errs in fielding no Chinese nose guards or white defensive backs. She instead means that she wants more “End Racism” end zone inscriptions and something beyond African-Americans representing 75 percent of all players. She wants a football league more vocal in its political commitments.
William Rhoden provides a more disturbing answer: “As for the 10 years that have passed since the recovered emails were revealed, in the war on racism, there is no statute of limitations. War criminals should be sought out and punished.”
Did Jon Gruden ever write anything so utterly twisted and horrific? Maybe release the emails of Gruden’s ESPN coworkers Rhoden and Hill. After all, they grabbed a paycheck from the same network that Gruden did when writing the offputting words. Certainly nobody in the NFL did.
Cotton Mather neither recognized his existence during the age of the witch hunt nor his inspiration for it. William Rhoden and other commissars of 2021 do not consider their embrace of our moment’s Salem.
We invade privacy. We tortuously take words out of context. We promise confidentiality and then scream “saw you naked.” We presume guilt rather than innocence. We punish those holding views different from our own. We publicize private communication between two parties to hundreds of millions of people. We judge a football coach by his political commitments rather than his win-loss record. We extend the statute of limitations to infinity. We lack grace.
We did all this here. Shame. And we did it all this here to make us feel superior to our punching bag. Sick.