The shocking part about Gruden: It isn’t shocking

By: - October 12, 2021 5:23 am

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

“Lips the size of micchelin tires.” “Faggot.” “Clueless anti football pussy.” Multiple startling Jon Grudenisms jump out from the coverage of the Raiders’ disgraced ex-coach.

But a passage in Tuesday’s New York Times story breached a larger, more trenchant issue than the lewd and crude homophobia, sexism and racism of one white man: “Taken together, the emails provide an unvarnished look into the clubby culture of one N.F.L. circle of peers, where white male decision makers felt comfortable sharing pornographic images … and jocularly sharing homophobic language.”

In other words, everyone who believes Raiders owner Mark Davis didn’t know that Gruden, who had served a previous stint as the team’s coach several years ago, was a homophobic misogynist racist when he hired him again, raise your hand.

After the Times reported Gruden describing DeMaurice Smith, the Black executive director of the players’ union, as having “lips the size of michellin tires,” Gruden said “All I can say is I’m not a racist.”

“Denial is the heartbeat of racism,” writes Ibram X. Kendi in the introduction to his groundbreaking book “How To Be An Antiracist.”

“What’s the problem with being ‘not racist’?,” Kendi continues. “It is a claim that signifies neutrality: ‘I am not a racist, but neither am I aggressively against racism.’ But there is no neutrality in the racism struggle. The opposite of ‘racist’ isn’t ‘not racist.’ It is ‘antiracist.’ … The claim of ‘not racist’ neutrality is a mask for racism.”

“Racist” is not a “pejorative” or a “slur,” Kendi writes. “It is descriptive.”

And it describes Gruden. As well as some of the most powerful people in the “clubby” NFL.

“This kind of behavior is unacceptable and reprehensible,” Gov. Steve Sisolak, who as Clark County Commission chairman did all he could to saddle the public with the $750 million cost of building a new football field to attract the Raiders, said on his reelection campaign Twitter account Monday night. “Las Vegas is a welcoming city and the Raiders are a part of our family. There’s no place for hate here.”

Saying “there’s no place for hate here” doesn’t mean hate isn’t here.

And the NFL, particularly its owner class that excels in profiting from public subsidies, was known as a sexist, homophobic, and racist industry long before virtually every Nevada political and business leader insisted that what Nevada needed more than anything else was a professional football team. If “there’s no place for hate here,” why did we give it money to come here?

Meanwhile, life goes on. The Las Vegas Review-Journal was leading its home page Tuesday morning with a story on what the state’s largest news organization evidently feels is the most pressing issue facing Nevada and Nevadans: Who will replace Gruden as head coach?

And what of Gruden?

Predictably, those pockets of social media that are, like Gruden, decidedly not antiracist are blasting Gruden’s departure as just another example of “cancel culture.” Perhaps Gruden can parlay his deplorable mentality into a career as Fox News host. Or maybe a Republican congressional candidate.

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Hugh Jackson
Hugh Jackson

Hugh Jackson was editor of the Las Vegas Business Press, senior editor at the Las Vegas CityLife weekly newspaper, daily political commentator on the Las Vegas NBC affiliate, and author of the Las Vegas Gleaner political blog. Prior to moving to Las Vegas, he was a reporter and editor at the Casper (Wyoming) Star-Tribune.