The one thing that keeps surprising me is how shocked folk are when the “Old boy” system of systemic ‘isms — racism, sexism and nepotism are woven into the fabric of our society hits the headlines, and the National Football League is no exception. Let’s stop pretending this isn’t who they are — it’s exactly who they are and more.
The great African-American poet, singer and playwright Maya Angelou once said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” This is definitely the case in this situation.
The way I see it, former Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden is the symptom of the problem that has long dogged the league. He’s far from being the only coach or member of the NFL who is a misogynist, racist and homophobic — he is the sacrificial lamb for what goes on in the dark recesses of their organizations. They talk a good game about wanting to have equality for women and minorities and weeding out issues of domestic abuse, and other horrendous problems, but time and time again, it has shown to be lip service, as little has changed– and that comes straight from the top.
“I’m sorry, I never meant to hurt anyone,” Gruden says when he resigned. First, he should have been fired. He stepped down after the New York Times reported that he frequently used misogynistic, racist and homophobic language directed at whoever was the target of his vitriol. He was in the fourth year of a 10-year, $100 million contract he signed with the Raiders in 2018.
Raiders owner Mark Davis knew who Gruden was and clearly approved of his views and behaviors. Davis went out of his way to re-sign the coach so he already knew what he was paying high dollars for and essentially co-signed the behavior. Davis released a statement last week that simply said,” I have accepted Jon Gruden’s resignation as head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders.”
This is an epic fail and a copout. I will not publish the depository and shameful email tropes of what Gruden wrote, it’s been covered extensively enough already. As a Native and African-American woman, these comments are gist for the mill. The NFL should be required to release information regarding this investigation.
Why was Gruden who has 117-112 career record and hadn’t won a playoff game since the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Super Bowl victory over the Raiders in the 2002 season worth that kind of money? The good ‘ole white boy network’ and favoritism is par and parcel of what the NFL stands for, and paying him that kind of money clearly endorses who he is. For the league, it’s lack of candor about what they need to change immediately speaks volumes about the future of any substantial or meaningful change from how they continue to operate.
I stopped watching their games years ago due to the role that cognitive dissonance plays in the industry — it’s just too much to bear as a true sports fan.
This isn’t the last of this type of behavior that has been historically brushed under the rug in the NFL.
Colin Kaepernick is still unemployed. Players are still making headlines for domestic violence abuses. The National Football League is still making little effort to have African-American players and assistant coaches promoted to head coach, or to increase our numbers in the front office at the executive level.
Until these issues are systematically addressed and filtered out of their ranks nothing will change. Expect to see more news about this situation to develop, and to possibly impact other teams as well because there is enough of this nonsensical behavior to go around...and sadly, too many of us won’t be surprised.
Joy Tyler is deputy editor of The Star Democrat.