Jon Gruden addresses 2011 ‘lips’ email about DeMaurice Smith
Jon Gruden on Friday addressed accusations that he used a racist characterization regarding DeMaurice Smith over email in 2011.
The Wall Street Journal on Friday published a story regarding the language used by Gruden when discussing Smith, the executive director of the NFLPA.
“Dumboriss Smith has lips the size of michellin tires,” Gruden wrote about Smith, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The Journal says that Gruden’s email was sent to then-Washington Football Team president Bruce Allen. Gruden was a broadcaster for ESPN at the time. The Wall Street Journal did not know the context to the email, though they say it began with a thread over Tiger Woods splitting with his longtime caddie.
When contacted about the remark, Gruden apologized. He also tried to provide context, saying that he describes people he believes are lying as having “rubber lips.” In this case, he would have been taking the lips description too far.
Gruden said that at the time it was the NFL lockout and he was upset with Smith.
“I was upset,” Gruden told The Wall Street Journal. “I used a horrible way of explaining it.”
“I don’t think he’s dumb. I don’t think he’s a liar,” Gruden said. “I don’t have a racial bone in my body, and I’ve proven that for 58 years.”
Smith, who has been the NFLPA executive director since 2009, told the Wall Street Journal that Gruden’s language was an example of racism he and other black people face.
“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.”
Gruden insisted to reporters on Friday that there was no racial motivation to his comments.
Gruden said he didn't trust what Smith was saying at the time in terms of the direction he was leading the NFLPA, and that he's always used the term "rubber lipped" to describe someone he thinks is lying.
— Vincent Bonsignore (@VinnyBonsignore) October 8, 2021
Gruden, 58, is in his second stint as head coach of the Raiders. This is his 15th season as an NFL head coach.