Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden sent an email with racially insensitive language about NFL Players Association president DeMaurice Smith in 2011, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday.
The email, sent to the president of the Washington Football Team, said that Smith had “lips the size of michellin tires,” the Journal reported, saying it has reviewed the email.
Asked about the email by the Journal, Gruden said he didn’t specifically recall writing it, but apologized.
“I’m really sorry,” he said, according to the Journal.
Gruden told the Journal he has used the term “rubber lips” to refer to people he thought were lying, and said: “I was upset. I used a horrible way of explaining it.”
Gruden added: “I don’t think he’s dumb. I don’t think he’s a liar. I don’t have a racial bone in my body, and I’ve proven that for 58 years.”
The NFL condemned Gruden’s comment in a statement Friday afternoon.
“The email from Jon Gruden denigrating DeMaurice Smith is appalling, abhorrent and wholly contrary to the NFL’s values,” the league’s statement read. “We condemn the statement and regret any harm that its publication may inflict on Mr. Smith or anyone else.”
“This is not the first racist comment that I’ve heard and it probably will not be the last,” Smith told the Journal. “This is a thick skin job for someone with dark skin, just like it always has been for many people who look like me and work in corporate America. You know people are sometimes saying things behind your back that are racist just like you see people talk and write about you using thinly coded and racist language.
“Racism like this comes from the fact that I’m at the same table as they are and they don’t think someone who looks like me belongs,” Smith said. “I’m sorry my family has to see something like this but I would rather they know. I will not let it define me.”
The email came in July 2011 as the NFL and its players were in the midst of trying to resolve a lockout. Gruden was employed at the time as the lead analyst for Monday Night Football on ESPN.