How an investigation of the Washington Football Team led to the resignation of the Las Vegas Raiders’ head coach

Jon Gruden, who resigned as head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders following reports of homophobic, racist and misogynistic emails, was not even a target of the NFL investigation which led to his rapid downfall.

Neither were the Raiders.

In fact, the questionable emails were uncovered as part of a league investigation into workplace misconduct at the Washington Football Team (WFT), which is concerning to many observers, given the modern National Football League’s efforts to become more inclusive and diverse.

“The question we should be asking is not really [about] the existence of the e-mails, but what is the culture in the NFL, period,” said Jemelle Hill, a contributing writer for The Atlantic.

“And this culture has existed since the very inception of the NFL… It’s about all the people he was emailing. And people realize that he was emailing back and forth… So if this is the pervasive attitude, if this is the group think in the NFL, black people don’t have a chance of being in leadership in the NFL at all because this is not just about Jon Gruden.”

Critics had called for Gruden, who had coached the Raiders since the beginning of the 2018 season, to be fired since The Wall Street Journal reported Friday he used racially insensitive language to describe NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith in a 2011 email.

On Monday, the New York Times reported it reviewed more emails and found Gruden denounced women being employed as on-field officials, a team drafting an openly gay player, and the tolerance for national anthem protesters.

Many of the emails, covering a seven-year period, were sent to Bruce Allen, the Washington team’s then-president, who was fired in December 2019, according to the Times.

A league source confirmed the accuracy of the Times’ story to CNN.

Gruden had sent the emails while he worked as an ESPN analyst.

The emails were uncovered by the league and presented to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell last week, the source said. The league last week sent the emails to the Raiders and said it had been waiting for the team to review them with Gruden.

“I love the Raiders and do not want to be a distraction. Thank you to all the players, coaches, staff, and fans of Raider Nation. I’m sorry, I never meant to hurt anyone,” Gruden said in a statement issued by the Raiders on Monday.

In one message, Gruden called NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell a “p*ssy” and a “f*ggot,” according to the Times. In another, he called Michael Sam a “queer” after the player was drafted by the St. Louis Rams in 2014, and Gruden said the league should not have pressured the team’s then coach to draft Sam, the Times reported.

Michael Sam publicly revealed he was gay ahead of the draft; he ultimately never played a regular season game in the league.

NFL veteran Ryan Russell, who came out as bisexual in 2019, told CNN’s New Day league efforts to make the sport more inclusive should not stop with Gruden’s resignation.

“Jon Gruden wasn’t sending those emails to himself. There were other people that knew about it,” Russell said. “There were other people that were involved across the league and this went unchecked for years, so no, resigning is not accountability. It’s not enough.”

NFL reporter Ian Rapoport said Gruden lost credibility within the Raiders locker room, especially given Carl Nassib — who became the first active NFL player in league history to announce he is gay earlier this year — plays for Las Vegas.

The fact thousands of emails from the investigation have yet to be made public has many league observers asking who else will be exposed.

“It’s a safe assumption to say that there are a lot of Jon Grudens in the NFL and I guess I just don’t have the confidence that this league can really put itself in self-check because this is the same league that wants people to buy that they are invested in attacking this issue because they have ‘End Racism’ end in end zones, because they have committed to social justice work,” Hill said.

In July, the NFL announced it fined the WFT $10 million after an independent investigation found the club’s work environment was “highly unprofessional,” especially for women.

The fine comes after 15 former female employees and two journalists who covered the team accused team staffers of sexual harassment and verbal abuse. The WFT launched an investigation last July, which the NFL took over in August.

The league pledged the $10 million will be used to “support organizations committed to character education, anti-bullying, healthy relationships and related topics.”

The NFL will also use the money to fund programs aimed at improving the workplace for women and underrepresented groups, according to a statement.

Gruden’s emails were uncovered as part of that investigation.

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