Does Gruden possess "a blade of racism?"


ESPN, plus the Post and the Times: Does former Raiders coach Jon Gruden possess even "a blade of racism?"

In part for a reason we'll detail below, we aren't sure how to answer. That said, we talk about journalists at this site, not about former coaches, and the journalism about this matter has been insultingly bad.

We saw conversations on ESPN yesterday which went several leagues below phony. Mina Kimes, Ryan Clark, Dan Orlovsky? It's sad to see how far people will go to adhere to the demands of their corporate coaching—to advance the mandated corporate pose.

(Laura Rutledge was the one who didn't bow to the corporate mandate in the pseudo-discussion on yesterday's NFL Live, the program Rutledge hosts. While the others took turns denouncing the "privilege" Gruden was somehow supposed to have displayed, Rutledge offered words of self-criticism when it came her time to speak. Perhaps for that reason, her statement was dropped from the videotape the channel posted. ESPN gets dumber and slimier on a corporate basis with every passing day.)

Back to Gruden. Does he possess a blade of racism? Below, you see the start of the Washington Post's editorial on this topic. Remember, we're here to assess the journalism, not to assess the latest devil himself:

WASHINGTON POST EDITORIAL (10/13/21): The National Football League spent 10 months investigating the toxic culture of the Washington Football Team after dozens of women came forward with complaints of sexual harassment and mistreatment. It interviewed hundreds of witnesses and collected some 650,000 documents. No information, nothing but a vacuous statement, was released. That made it easy for the league to let owner Daniel Snyder off with only a slap on the wrist.

The league didn’t coddle Jon Gruden in the same way, and he was forced to resign as coach of the Las Vegas Raiders after offensive emails he wrote became public. Deservedly so: His messages were contemptible. In a 2011 email published last week by the Wall Street Journal, he used racist language when referring to the executive director of the players’ union. After he apologized and said he didn’t have “a blade of racism in me,” the New York Times detailed emails written during a seven-year period while he worked for ESPN, in which he casually and regularly used racist, homophobic and sexist language. No matter his success on the football field, Mr. Gruden’s words, and the attitude they reflect, are disqualifying.

Remember, we're assessing the journalism here. We'll examine several questions:

Is it true that Gruden "used racist language when referring to the executive director of the players’ union?" The email in question certainly might convey that impression!

That said, Gruden offered an explanation for the expression he used in that email. If we were speaking about only one email, a person could even imagine that his explanation was sincere.

Luckily, there are all those other emails! The editorial board of the Post describes those emails as shown:

After he apologized and said he didn’t have “a blade of racism in me,” the New York Times detailed emails written during a seven-year period while he worked for ESPN, in which he casually and regularly used racist, homophobic and sexist language.

Did Gruden "casually and regularly use racist language" in those seven years of additional emails? As far as we know, that claim just isn't accurate. 

This is the New York Times report to which the editors refer. You'll note that the headline refers to "homophobic and misogynistic emails," not to racist statements.

In fact, there is no claim in that full-length report of any additional use of racist language. No such claim is made at any point in that full-length report.

(In that report, we're told that Gruden even went so far as to "criticize President Barack Obama during his re-election campaign in 2012!" It's astounding to think that a private citizen would dare to criticize a sitting president, even in a private email. But the Times report doesn't say that Gruden used any inappropriate language when he misbehaved in this plainly deplorable way.)

It does sound like Gruden and his friends regularly engaged in the rough talk of rude men. We refer to the p-bombs and f-bombs they directed at men they judged to be unmanly, even including Commissioner Roger Goodell and then-Vice President Biden. 

We think the rough talk of rude men is pathetic, unfortunate, sad. (In fairness, we'll note that these examples of rough talk were being offered in private, among consenting if childish adults.)

In our view, it's stupid and sad when grown men engage in such swaggering talk. But there is no claim, at any point in that New York Times report, of any further racist language on Gruden's part. We'll guess that, if other examples existed, we would have been told about them.

The Times reported no other examples of racist language by Gruden. Inevitably, the Post editorial board failed to notice this fact and actually stated the opposite. 

Our press corps tends to play this way when it stages a moral stampede. In large part, this explains how George W. Bush got into the White House, and therefore how the United States Army ended up in Iraq.

In fairness to the Washington Post, we noticed a similar error in the front-page New York Times report to which the editors linked. Here's how that report began:

BELSON AND ROSMAN (10/12/21): Jon Gruden stepped down Monday as the coach of the Las Vegas Raiders football team hours after The New York Times detailed emails in which he had made homophobic and misogynistic remarks, following an earlier report of racist statements about a union leader.

His resignation was a striking departure from the football league for a coach who had won a Super Bowl, been a marquee analyst on ESPN and returned to the N.F.L. in 2018 to lead the resurgent Raiders, which he had coached years before.

Is the highlighted reference accurate? Had there really been "an earlier report of racist statements" (plural) about that union leader? 

In fact, Belson and Rosman linked to this earlier report. That earlier report cites only the one allegedly racist statement. For reasons only they can explain, Belson and Rosman proceeded to take it plural.

(More than twenty years ago, we began noting this remarkably common journalistic practice, which we described as "the power of pluralization." When journalists behave this way, they take a single instance of behavior and they make it plural. All of a sudden, just like that, there could be hundreds of examples of the undesirable conduct in question!)

Yesterday's conversations on ESPN were journalistically heinous. The pseudo-conversations were fraudulent, fake, phony, faux. They'd be an embarrassment to the species, until you stopped to realize which species you were talking about. When Rutledge dared to offer a word of self-criticism, her comments were disappeared.

Those conversations featured two former NFL players saying they were shocked, shocked to think that someone associated with the NFL would ever speak the misogynistic and homophobic language of rough, rude men. (Orlovsky actually kept using the word!) We're not sure we've ever seen overpaid cable hustlers offering such ridiculous "imitations of life."

(Rutledge said that she hasn't spoken up sufficiently in the past when such terms are used. She seemed to be the only one who seemed to know that some rough men speak in the manner described! Orlovsky and Clark were shocked.)

In fairness, the people we saw on cable are simply corporate actors. The corporation in question is ESPN, a corporation which now seems devoted to staging transparent gong-shows featuring either 1) phony staged disputation (First Take) or 2) phony staged clubhouse-style camaraderie with plenty of staged group laughter (NFL Live).

Yesterday's pseudo-discussions on ESPN were part of our dying entertainment culture. But the Washington Post and the New York Times are supposed to be sunk in journalism.

Your lizard brain will want you to be angry with the observation we've made. But the point we're making is this:

Unless there's something we have missed, there is only one alleged use of racist language by Gruden in  those seven years of emails. Had other racist language been used, we're willing to guess that it would have been mentioned.

We leave you with an observation from Cassandra, daughter of Priam and Hecuba:

This is the way our childish, insecure species plays when on the road to perdition. The pig is killed to help us ignore the endless things we ourselves haven't done.

Full disclosure: The journalism has been stunningly bad in ways we haven't mentioned. As Cassandra constantly says, this is the way the children play as the road nears its end.


  1. Is he racist? Wrong question. Could he affect the CORPORATION's image/ advertising revenue? The only question that matters.

    If yes, off with his head!

  2. Personally, we find it abhorrent that people are still allowed to use English language.

    It is long due to forget racist, homophobic and misogynistic English language - forget it as a national nightmare! - and switch to Ebonics.

    1. Yo! What's da Gonorsan Jer wahth ya, geezer? What is ya talkahng about?

  3. I wouldn’t give you two cents for Gruden or for the outrage hustlers sitting at that table who had probably heretofore kissed the coach’s heinie at every opportunity.

    We live in a day where people are going to facilitate public bloodletting and callow men and women are going to fall under that sword. However, a pox on the people who so assiduously and mercilessly wield that punishment.

    All of them. Get the hell out my sight.

    1. Look away, bro. You can do it! I’m rooting for you!

    2. Go away Sis. You can do it! Don't let the door hit your huge ass on the way out.

    3. Now that I know where you’re looking, it makes more sense.

    4. Still talking? You really don't know when to shut up.

      Remember that every word you write here will be dredged up and used to get you fired, should you ever get hired anywhere. Because real life doesn't tolerate assholes like you.

    5. No, “real life” tolerates things just fine. It’s bossy-pants like you who don’t.

    6. If you call the wrong person a racist name, you can get beaten up. Notice that Gruden didn't send the insult to Smith but circulated it behind his back, like the coward he is. Real life punishes those who don't play well with others.

      You come here to taunt liberals and pretend to be clever. You aren't. You reveal yourself to be a thoroughly ugly person and life isn't kind to people like you. Maybe that's what you're working out here, but that's no excuse.

      Here is the dark triad of personality traits that cause people to behave like trolls: (1) Machiavellianism, (2) Sociopathy, (3) Narcissism. No one likes people with those traits, so it probably sucks to be you in real life.

    7. So not agreeing with Anonymices is not “playing well with others”?

      Actually coming here because I like what a read is a sign of sociopathy?

      That thinking is so skewered that you just might be an anonymouse.

    8. No, name-calling is not playing well with others.

      When you change anonymous (which means "not identified by name") into mouse, which is a kind of rodent, you are name-calling.

      The way you behave toward others is a sign of sociopathy, especially the lack of empathy that leads you to say appalling things.

      And then you close with more name-calling.

    9. I don’t say “appalling things” I just make fun of you.

    10. No, you say truly awful things that demonstrate a lack of empathy consistent with sociopathy.

    11. Sociopathy is someone who daily comes to a blog to tell the blogger that he hates women( including his mother), is a Russian plant, is a stealth Republican (those people who are all the bad things in the world), that he racist, and has been a failure at everything he does.

      Those are appalling comments. Those are the things you say, at least weekly.

      Sociopathy is excusing that, while you have the heebeejies over someone who calls you a clown or who fails to agree with you.

    12. Cecelia,
      Glad to see you made it off the fainting couch.

    13. Ah, Poor Psuedorat Cece is triggered.

    14. Somerby's feelings about his mother were the subject of a stand-up routine he used to do. His success/failure is obvious since he works in a public occupation -- entertainer.

      I'm not talking about your name-calling as a sign of sociopathy, but your utter lack of caring about anyone except yourself, as expressed by your own comments.

    15. No, Anonymouse 10:16am, cutting personal insults are the sign of a sociopath. Calling someone none-too-bright or “Anonymouse” on a blog board is pretty tame. The fact that you take these things as being appalling is evident of the vast, yet fragile self-regard of a tyrant.

      It’s also not appalling of me to not mouth all the things I’m suppose to be saying about certain people and things that play into the power dynamic of your politics. In the same way you’re here to badger a blogger for not saying them either.

      Then you talk of “caring”. Sure.

    16. No, I take as appalling the mean-spirited "jokes" you make when someone posts about some misfortune of others. The liberal-baiting is just a symptom of the larger empathy-deficit that makes you a conservative. You made such statements about covid victims, for example. Democrats care about people and want to enact programs to help all achieve better lives. Republicans want to protect their own wealth and don't care what happens to anyone else. That's you, Cecelia.

    17. Anonymouse 7:45pm, yes, I don’t have an empathy deficit, I have a gallows sense of humor and an aversion to virtue signaling.

      On the other hand, you proclaim your moral greatness to the skies based on your support for what you deem is the right public policy. Otherwise, you’re here every day in order to personally insult the blogger and to decry your political contrarians as being inhumane and disordered.

      There’s something very wrong with that. This behavior of anonymices is angry, doctrinaire, intolerant, and riddled with cant. You anonymices are all about passionate denunciations and self-proclamations.

      You certainly seemed to have found your soul mates via some online venue (perhaps Hullabaloo) and you’ve coalesced together with this blog as your target.

      It’s simultaneously adolescent, militant, and creepy.

  4. “Our press corps tends to play this way when it stages a moral stampede. In large part, this explains how George W. Bush got into the White House, and therefore how the United States Army ended up in Iraq.”

    On the narrow technical question of whether Gruden made one or more than one racist statement, Somerby seems to be correct, as far as I can tell.

    But I don’t see the moral “stampede” from the press corps. Apparently, Gruden’s emails “were uncovered by the league and presented to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell last week” according to CNN, emails in which Gruden referred to Goodell as ‘a "p*ssy" and a "f*ggot,"’.

    I doubt Goodell felt much regret when Gruden “resigned.” The newspapers were not on some sort of crusade against Gruden.

    He also did this: “Gruden exchanged emails with Allen and other men that included photos of women wearing only bikini bottoms, including one photo of two Washington team cheerleaders.” His emails were apparently uncovered “as part of a separate workplace misconduct investigation.”

    But yeah, just that one racist statement.

  5. “In large part, this explains how George W. Bush got into the White House, and therefore how the United States Army ended up in Iraq.””

    But Bob, the average “moderate” voters (you know, the ones Democrats supposedly need to win over in order to win elections) were overwhelmingly in favor of that war after 9/11.

    Opposition to it was viewed as unpatriotic, liberal treason.

  6. Step back and consider how much of what we call "bigotry" today is merely the use of certain words. We're all aware of the horrible treatment of gays, blacks, Asians, Jews, Mormons, etc. It included murder, pogroms, prohibiting various job choices, etc. We have made enormous progress.

    1. David, words reveal attitudes. Those attitudes influence decisions large and small that affect the lives of black people.

      While there has been progress, these problems all still exist, as well as pervasive beliefs about black people that affect their incomes, job prospects, ability to buy homes, ability to vote and run for office, ability to play certain roles in the movies, all amounting to their ability to participate equally in our society.

      The goal in combatting racism is not tiny incremental improvement to an end to mistreatment of people based on skin color. With the biggest resurgence in white supremacy occurring, with domestic violence increasing among such groups, it is far from time to declare that racism is no longer a thing.

    2. This article disagrees with you David:

    3. You can hear far worse on hiphop stations on the radio.

    4. Free speech kiddo. Now put those words into context. Do you really think Gruden was singing a hiphop song when he sent those words around? What was their intent? ...pause while Cecelia comes up with a lame, incorrect answer... In Gruden's case, it was to disparage a black man using his physical characteristics and culture to demean him. That is the essence of racism.

    5. No, let’s pause while you do the usual anonymouse nonsense of framing all things as an “either/or” proposition.

    6. Hiphop isn't about black people calling each other racist names. Gruden IS about that.

      Please call other commenters by their actual names: Anonymous is not spelled with an e at the end. Those who write using that name are NOT interested in using another name. Your repeated mockery based on a name is very similar to Gruden's use of Dumboris for DeMaurice. It isn't clever or funny. It shows disrespect for others, and in Gruden's case, it is racist because mocking names used by black people has been going on for centuries now.

      It isn't cute or funny. It is antisocial and uncivil. It shows a lack of interest in talking with others about anything substantive and is about one the same level as whoever comes here and calls everyone stupid all the time. Have a conversation or go away. On second thought, just go away.

    7. When you find where I called Gruden or anything he said cute or funny, you let me know.

      You want to be treated as an individual? Get a nym. Use it consistently. Be accountable for what you say from one day to another

    8. No, the things YOU say are neither cute nor funny.

      "Get a nym. Use it consistently." Who's the bossypants?

    9. Africa is the greatest place to live, dear dembots. Without the whitey, it's no racism, no homophobia, no misogyny. It's Paradise, we tell ya. Trust us, you get there, y'all will never wanna come back.

    10. Bossypants would be someone who says that Anonymices have no interest in getting a unique name— of being distinguishable, and then tell me what I must call them in order not to be a sociopath by hurting their tender feelings.

      The temerity of this sort of reasoning “en masse” convinces me that there are about four of you total who comment here.

    11. Congrats. You’re the dimmest of the four.

  7. Who would have a better idea of what constitutes racism: (1) black people, (2) Bob Somerby?

    Here is the reaction to Grudin's actions over at The Root, a publication devoted to black issues written by black people:

    Somerby pretends Gruden only made a stupid play on the guy's name, but he also said that the player's rep had lips the size of Michelin tires. How is that not racist? How honest is it of Somerby to leave that part out and pretend this is all a big fuss over nothing?

    Why is Somerby once again defending the wrong people. And yes, attacking the journalists for their reactions while saying nothing about Gruden, is a defense of Gruden. Today Somerby minimizes the importance of racism, ignoring the negative impact it has on real people's lives. His very focus on the reporters instead of Gruden implies that theirs is the greater offense, the one we should all be very concerned about, not racism in sports.

  8. "Is the highlighted reference accurate? Had there really been "an earlier report of racist statements" (plural) about that union leader? "

    This statement is accurate in the plural.

    Here is the sentence: "Dumboriss Smith has lips the size of michellin (sic) tires."

    Racist statement 1: Referring to DeMaurice as Dumboris, a play on his name that calls Smith stupid. Mocking black names is racist, and calling up the stereotype of blacks as stupid is racist.

    Racist statement #2: Calling a black man's lips the size of Michelin tires evokes the negative stereotype about the appearance of black people. Gruden tried to cover by saying that he was referring to "rubber lips" as if someone were a blabbermouth. That is clearly not what is being said in this sentence.

    For Somerby to pretend that there is just one racist element here, one racist statement, is incorrect. It is part of his attempt to minimize Gruden's offense.

    While I would agree that anyone has the right to criticize any president, past or present, the use of homophobic and misogynist terms to voice that criticism is not OK. The problem is not that such terms are being applied to a president, but that they are being applied to anyone. Somerby glosses over the use of such language in the criticism of the president and pretends that Gruden is being blamed for the criticism and not the homophobia and misogyny.

    Pretending this email was a one-off is ridiculous. It is almost as if Somerby is saying he won't believe anything bad about Gruden unless the email was sent to him directly. Somerby wishes to treat reports of what Gruden was doing over a number of years as if it were hearsay. That's the same kind of leaning over backwards to defend a miscreant as Somerby extended to Roy Moore. And today Somerby is right in step with conservative talking points -- joining the chorus of Republican voices defending Gruden as the MAGA crowd make Gruden a martyr:

    1. The other day, you read a comment from a black thought leader who described behavior that she found appalling to be “peak whiteness”.

      What was it that these awful white people, with their inherently flawed natures, have done? Listed themselves as being MULTI-racial based upon their actual genetics.

      This is super problematic because special, particular, and truly black people (no matter the shade of their skin color or life experiences) will tell us who is or who is not authentically a part of an ethnic group based upon shared experiences and social constructs.

      It’s indicative of the oppressive nature of being Caucasian for anyone to take that job upon themselves even when their genetics are largely not Caucasian.

      It’s a power grapple over who is what based upon those who get to define a status complete with its own sort of privilege.

      It’s peak political, arbitrary, and self-serving.

      It would have been nice to see anonymices have some concept of that.

    2. "What was it that these awful white people, with their inherently flawed natures, have done?"

      Suppressed the votes of black people. AGAIN.

    3. .02% Turkish DNA doesn't make you a "person of color"

    4. So you’ve branched out to accuse all your contrarians with a certain melanin level of that, Anonymouse 9:53am.

      Great thinking.

    5. Anonymouse 10:09am, go back and read the piece. She listed herself as multi-racial as to her genetics.

  9. Here is another reason why the election was closer than it should have been:

    "“A pro-Trump political group has agreed to pay $25,000 to settle allegations it illegally solicited $2 million from reporters posing as intermediaries for a Chinese national,” Axios reports.

    “A key player in the scheme, a veteran Republican operative, is facing criminal charges over allegedly funneling tens of thousands of dollars in foreign cash to Trump’s re-election effort, making news of the fine the latest in an emerging pattern of conduct.”

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Those rats aren't going to fuck themselves.

  10. "FACT: The "umbrella man" who infamously sparked violence during last summer's peaceful Black Lives Matter protests in Minneapolis has been identified as a member of a white supremacist group [Aryan Cowboys] who PRETENDED to be a BLM protester.
    Source: ABC News "

  11. Head line I immediately started scanning the articles for what he actually said.. didn’t take long to realize he had been Al Frankend. It’s possible his rough talk should have been enough to get him fired. Insulting gays and women is not nothing. But more dirty pool, woke style.

    1. The entire NFL "cancel cultured" Colin Kaepernick for less.

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