NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith said one of the main reasons for his request that the NFL release the emails from its investigation into Washington football team is because he wants to determine whether race has been a factor in hiring decisions in the league and whether teams have been “actively hostile to players who have chosen to identify themselves in various ways.”
Smith discussed a wide range of topics, including the NFL’s investigation of workplace misconduct with the Washington football team and the reported emails that led to Jon Gruden’s resignation of Las Vegas Adventurers, in an interview Wednesday with ESPN’s Bomani Jones.
Smith’s comments came a day after the NFLPA announced it formally ask the NFL to release the rest of the 650,000 emails collected by the league as part of its investigation. Several emails leaked following this investigation showed that Gruden used racist, misogynistic and anti-gay language.
“What interests me, is there any correspondence that suggests that teams make decisions about coaches based on their skin color?” Smith said the ESPN’s “Good Time with Bomani Jones” Podcast. “Are they actively hostile to players who have chosen to identify in various ways? Do they disparage people based on their sexual preferences or religious identity?”
One of Gruden’s emails contained a racist comment about Smith, who is black.
Before Gruden stepped down as Raiders head coach on Monday, Smith tweeted that the email and part of the reaction to it “confirms that the fight against racism, racist tropes and the “intolerance is not over. This is not as much of an email as it is. about a pervasive belief among some that people who look like me can be treated as less.”
Smith echoed those sentiments during his interview with Jones on Wednesday and said Gruden contacted him last Saturday, a day after the Wall Street Journal reported on Gruden’s racist remark in a 2011 email. Smith told Jones he responded by text message and hoped to speak to Gruden later this week, however acknowledging that their weekend exchange took place before Gruden resigned on Monday.
Smith also stressed on Wednesday that he hopes the NFL and the players’ union “will match our actions with our words” when it comes to diversity and inclusion.
“I think it would be good for our game and for our business – both the league and the union – to decide that we are going to take a step forward,” he said. “And we’ve been talking about diversity, we’ve been talking about inclusiveness for years. How can we move on and match our actions with our words? And when will we begin to hold people accountable for meeting a standard that we believe is the acceptable standard for fair human interaction? “
Gruden’s resignation came shortly after the New York Times reported that he used misogynistic and anti-gay language in numerous emails to Bruce Allen, then president of the Washington football team, and to others during a seven-year period that ended in 2018. This report came days after 10-year emails from Gruden surfaced, which included the racist comment about Smith, as well than a vulgar criticism of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
Gruden was employed by ESPN as a senior analyst for Monday Night Football at the time he sent the emails.