We can confidently speculate on its reasons, but the NFL really wants Jon Gruden to shut up and go away.
Which puts me in the supremely uncomfortable position of … having to root for Gruden to dig in and keep fighting the league? Ugh.
What a downright icky realization.
Let me explain: In court filings recently reviewed by reporter David Charns of KLAS, the NFL alleges that Gruden didn’t just send racist, sexist, xenophobic and/or anti-gay emails while he was with ESPN and writing to the then-Washington team President Bruce Allen and others; Gruden “consistently” sent those kinds of emails after he was hired by the Raiders in early 2019.
As a practical matter, that isn’t exactly surprising news. Leopards don’t change their spots. A grown man who peddles in antiquated racist tropes by calling a highly educated Black man like NFL Players Association head DeMaurice Smith “Dumboriss” with “lips the size of michelin [sic] tires” isn’t expected to somehow gain a conscience just because he got a different job.
But the NFL doesn’t care when Gruden sent his emails or who was paying him at the time he sent them.
The motion the league filed is a threat to Gruden, meant to protect the league’s own interests. Full stop.
Lest we forget, to this point Gruden almost inexplicably remains the only person who has faced any real consequences for getting entangled in the vast, poisonous web of the Washington workplace misconduct scandal.
The NFL continues to protect Commanders owner Dan Snyder, who not only apparently did nothing to stem the yearslong, toxic environment of misogyny and sexual harassment women in Washington’s offices had to deal with from Snyder’s underlings, he’s been accused of harassment and inappropriate conduct by at at least two women. And former employees have revealed they were told to make lewd videos, called the “good bits,” for Snyder after the annual cheerleaders’ photo shoot, showing the women in inadvertent and various moments of nudity that occurred as they posed.
Someone decided to leak Gruden’s emails to the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, emails that led to what Gruden says was a “forced resignation” in October 2021 and a lawsuit against the league a month later. The NFL denies any connection to the leak.
And commissioner Roger Goodell wants us to believe that of the 650,000 emails that were part of the investigation into Washington, only the emails Gruden was part of contained any racism, sexism, xenophobia or anti-gay sentiment.
Which is probably why the NFL wants Gruden to stop pursuing his case in the courts, negotiate a settlement and shut up: Gruden can likely prove that he sure as hell was not the only one who peddled in such puerile behavior.
And that puts us in the supremely uncomfortable position of rooting for Gruden to dig in and keep fighting, on the hopes that if he does we’ll get an even better sense than we already did of how rotten the NFL truly is.
If Gruden doesn’t just take the league’s money and the case proceeds, he can force discovery. Sure, we’ll likely see more of his emails, but we have a pretty good sense of exactly who Gruden is through the exchanges that have already been made public. The big bonus is that we also might get to see who else was on the sending and receiving end of some of those 650,000 emails, and whether Gruden’s electronic archives have old messages to and from at least some of the league’s heavy hitters that contain a lot of the same kind of degrading, dehumanizing, discriminatory content.
The NFL absolutely does not want that.
Despite mounting evidence to the contrary, the league wants us to believe that since Goodell said “Black lives do matter” in a video and fields had “END RACISM” painted on end zones and owners agreed to give a few pennies each to the Players Coalition and has run some PSAs about domestic violence, that it has solved everything. Nothing to see here, it is totally not a patently racist, sexist, xenophobic group, all the while laughing at the hoi polloi as they sip champagne on their mega yachts in the Mediterranean, as Snyder did for much of the summer while he tried to evade a subpoena from Congress.
So as icky as it feels, go Gruden.