Jon Gruden a Racist?

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Top photo of former head coach Jon Gruden by Claudia Gestro

Jon Gruden claims to not have a racist bone in his body after apologizing for racist comments he made ten years ago about the NFL Players Association leader, DeMaurice Smith. Why is it every time someone’s past racist remarks come back to haunt them, they claim they are not racist?  The time to make such a claim is not when you are in the middle of a firestorm of controversy. It just makes you look even more ignorant than what you claim you are not. At least Gruden chose to fall on his sword and resigned as the Raiders coach.*

How individuals define being racist is not always close to how society defines it. One thing I have learned over the course of my life is most racists don’t want to be known as such publicly. It is when they think they are in the safe company of likeminded people when they let their guard down and let flow with their ignorance. It is also why they hide behind hoods and robes.

Jon Gruden had some disparaging things to say about NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell
(Claudia Gestro)

I no longer know how to define racist, but I know it when I see it and hear it. How a middle-aged white man defines racism is nowhere near the same as how a person of color defines it. Those of us who grew up in households where off-color jokes were commonplace were modeled a much different form of racist behavior than those who grew up a generation earlier. Maybe we justify our form as just being funny, but even humor is not defined the same by everyone. However, what is used during an angry email about someone is often a window to the truth about the person who is angry.

Gruden, like Urban Meyer, was busted publicly for the first time. Both are white men in their late 50’s who coach a sport in which blacks make a sizable percentage of the player pool. I can’t help but wonder how many times Gruden may have made similar comments about a player when in the comfort of his assistant coaches. Was he repeating a description that was commonly shared by others in the NFL or is the remark the tip of a racist iceberg we are just beginning to learn about Gruden? Either way, Gruden has a lot of mending to do with a large group of people before he ever works in football again.

Along those lines, many of us have a lot to rethink about ourselves when we claim to not have a racist bone in our bodies. Just because we claim not to does not mean others see us in the same light. I like to think I am more open minded than my father was, but that may not be enough. How often do I make a flippant remark that others might be offended by if they were present? How often do I think more before I speak so as not to offend others present?

Overt racism is easy to spot and react to. The burning of a cross, the marching of neo-Nazis, and the public claims this is a white man’s nation are obvious to us. Gruden’s comments, in my opinion, fell more in line with the obvious because they had nothing to do with the point he was trying to argue in his email. He was angry and in that moment, he let his guard down and out came an ugly truth about the man.

Former NFL Quarterback Colin Kaepernick
(Claudia Gestro)

What Roger Goodell and the league does about this will go a long way toward outing just how enlightened the NFL is. The fact Gruden was not immediately suspended makes me think the NFL is hoping this all blows over now that Gruden has stepped down. If true, expect to see this blow up into a larger controversy. At the very least, the league needs to explain why a white man has been allowed to profit greatly off the game since making racist remarks while Colin Kaepernick has been blackballed for a cause that many whites refuse to admit is an issue, and who will also think Gruden got a raw deal.

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Editor’s Note: *Gruden resigned after a meeting with Raiders owner Mark Davis and just hours after the New York Times published an article detailing more of his racist, misogynistic and homophobic comments.