Jon Gruden’s Emails Illustrate Toxic Culture Within NFL Leadership

Jon Gruden, former head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders. (Image Credit: Don Wright)

Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden resigned in disgrace last week after a series of emails in which he used racist, sexist, and anti-gay remarks to criticize other people working within the NFL.

Gruden’s remarks surfaced within the course of a separate investigation, one that sought to investigate sexual harassment within the Washington Football Team franchise. That investigation began after female whistleblowers within the organization came forward with evidence that the upper management of the organization fostered a toxic workplace environment where sexual harassment was pervasive.

Gruden’s remarks were leaked from emails he shared with his friend and former General Manager of the Washington Football Team, Bruce Allen, in which he used racist language to describe the president of the NFL Players Union, criticized the fact that women were allowed to become NFL referees, shared pornographic images of cheerleaders taken without their consent, and criticized other NFL teams for drafting gay players.

While these emails did lead to Gruden’s resignation, this is likely just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the amount of sexism and racism that is openly shared by the “old boys’ club” that is the upper echelons of the NFL power structure.

Such sentiments were in fact shared openly in response to the movement of players started by Colin Kaepernick to “take a knee” in protest against police brutality. In response to the wave of players kneeling, the billionaire owner of the Houston Texans said, “we can’t have inmates running the prison.”  This is probably an accurate picture of how the NFL owners really view their players, whose labor and bodies they exploit and destroy in their pursuit of profit.

This toxic culture of the power brokers in the NFL is a disgusting microcosm of the racism, sexism, and homophobia that is pervasive in our society! The NFL is only a symptom of a larger disease.

We must do everything we can to challenge these attitudes and organize a new system based on equality and respect for all!