DeMaurice Smith asks if unreleased emails conceal NFL power brokers 'hostile' to marginalized groups

·3 min read

Following reports exposing Jon Gruden's emails that included racism targeting him, DeMaurice Smith asked Wednesday if a trove of unreleased emails conceals more bigotry from NFL power brokers.

The NFLPA executive director addressed the subject in an interview on "The Right Time with Bomani Jones," where he confirmed that he has heard from Gruden since last week's Wall Street Journal report that Gruden wrote in an email: "Dumboriss Smith has lips the size of michellin [sic] tires.”

The two have exchanged text messages, but haven't yet had a conversation about Gruden's email that he later apologized for

“At some point, I'm sure we’ll talk," Smith told Jones. 

Smith addressed the NFLPA's ask that the NFL release the emails that weren't made public in the reports on Gruden's correspondence. The Gruden emails are reportedly part of a trove of roughly 650,000 emails that were part of an NFL investigation into workplace misconduct at the Washington Football Team. Smith told Jones that the request wasn't a legal maneuver, but simply an ask of the league. He wants to know what else might be revealed.

"Is there correspondence that suggests that teams are making decisions about coaches based on the color of their skin?" Smith asked. "Are they actively hostile to players who have chosen to self-identify in various ways? Are they denigrating people based on sexual preference or religious identity?"

The NFL's stance is that it won't make the emails public, citing confidentiality. 

DeMaurice Smith, left, executive director of the National Football League Players' Association talks with Bruce Allen, Washington Redskins president, before an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins,  Sunday, Sept. 13, 2015, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Mark Tenally)
DeMaurice Smith and former Washington Football Team executive Bruce Allen, who was named as a correspondent by the New York times in the reported Jon Gruden emails. (AP Photo/Mark Tenally)

What was Smith's response to Gruden's personal attack?

As for how Gruden's reported email targeting him made him feel? Smith said his first concern was for family members who would read about it in the news. 

"It’s a gross caricature that you and I would have expected from the 50s maybe, or the 60s," Smith said. "I guess my only takeaway really was, it’s a group of people who are on an email chain feeling pretty comfortable about saying things. My first thought really — if this story’s gonna run — I’ve got to talk to my family."

Smith addresses 'Sunday Night Football' commentary

Smith also addressed the response of NBC's Mike Tirico and Tony Dungy, who have drawn heat for their defense of Gruden on "Sunday Night Football." Both announcers offered Gruden the benefit of the doubt in commentary that was made prior to Monday's New York Times report that ultimately prompted Gruden to resign as Las Vegas Raiders head coach. Tirico was Gruden's broadcast partner in the "Monday Night Football" booth.

"He said it wasn’t racially motivated," Dungy said. "I have to believe him. I think this was an incident that was 10 years ago. He apologized. I think we need to accept that apology and move on."

Smith didn't name names, but had critical words for what was said on the broadcast. 

"I don’t think we can explain away racism, homophobia and misogyny," Smith said. "While I didn’t watch 'Sunday Night Football,' people informed me about what other people said. I think the more we try to offer an apology or a defense of comments like these or feelings like these or thoughts or positions like these, we will never turn a corner."

Smith ultimately called for the NFL to turn its anti-bigotry messaging into action.

"We’ve talked about diversity," Smith said. "We’ve talked about inclusiveness for years. How do we turn the corner and match our actions to our words? When will we start to hold people accountable for living up to a standard that we believe is the acceptable standard for just human interaction?"

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