Was Raiders’ Jon Gruden right to resign over emails?

Louis Briscese / U.S. Air Force

Fact Box

  • The Las Vegas Raiders are an American professional football team part of the NFL; they were founded in 1960 as one of the original teams of the AFL. 
  • Jon Gruden is an American football coach most known for his Super Bowl win with the Buccaneers and time with the Raiders. He was the Raiders’ head coach from 1998 to 2002, and rejoined in 2018 to October 11, 2021. 
  • After emails were revealed of Gruden’s “racist, homophobic, and misogynistic terms,” he resigned as Raiders’ coach. He stated, “I love the Raiders and do not want to be a distraction. Thank you.... I’m sorry, I never meant to hurt anyone.”
  • The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times released emails dated between 2010 and 2011 showing Gruden’s use of inappropriate terminology: one, an email describing NFL executive director DeMaurice Smith, and two, multiple emails with homophobic and misogynistic language. 
  • Cancel culture is the practice of mass canceling as a form of “expressing disapproval and exerting social pressure.” This comes in various forms of calling out behavior on social media, boycotting the public figure in question, and removing their platform and power.

Siam (No)

While league officials were conducting an investigation into former Washington Football Team President Bruce Allen, they discovered emails from a close friend of his—Jon Gruden. They determined that many of these emails were sexist, racists, homophobic and transphobic. The NFL and social media went ballistic, and Gruden was asked to resign. But Gruden should not have complied.

First, the league was not even investigating Gruden, and the emails were accidentally discovered as all rules of privacy were completely disregarded. Secondly, most emails were dated between 2010 through 2018, before the Raiders had even hired Gruden. Millions of people say sexist and racist things every day—so should they all be asked to resign? No person is perfect at all times. Gruden’s emails are not threatening nor violent. Crude, crass, and not nice at times, but he was simply stating his thoughts.

Perhaps more importantly is the fact that the emails were between private parties. While one could argue the First Amendment may actually permit the limiting of some speech, especially by private business, Jon Gruden was voicing opinions on various topics that did not even involve his work. Within a few days, all of Gruden’s accomplishments on and off the field for over two decades were laid to waste. 

Sadly the cancel culture has become very toxic; it prevents the exchange of ideas, opinions, and views between two private parties. Today you can no longer say anything negative about anyone, even in private, lest you will be ostracized from society. At the same time, you can rest assured, you will be fired from your job. The days of free speech are over, and ‘censorship’ is now the new norm. 

Andrew (Yes)

Jon Gruden's swift resignation following the revelation of email rants against player protests, female referees, and an openly gay player, as well as homophobic and misogynistic language, is the right thing to do. Gruden's words are truly despicable and simply have no place in modern society; quitting and immediately leaving the public eye is the only option.

While many people idolize NFL greats, it is important to remember that the NFL is still a workplace. If a manager in any other business spoke of staff and customers in these ways, the company would immediately remove them, and rightfully so. NFL players deserve the same protections against hostile work environments and harassment that the rest of us enjoy.

Gruden's resignation is good for the NFL, which has been trying to clean up its image. Gruden's behavior is alienating and offensive; certainly not welcoming to new fans. Through its enormous reach and programs such as the Walter Payton Man of the Year, the NFL has the potential to do tremendous good. However, if Gruden were to stay, his presence would do serious damage to these social justice movements.

While a fringe minority of people will dismiss this resignation as cancel culture, most people recognize Gruden's resignation as accountability. Gruden claimed, 'I'm sorry, I never meant to hurt anyone,' but as NPR sports commentator Tom Goldman points out, it's not likely this was the case. Around 70% of NFL players are Black, and Gruden's Raiders have Carl Nassib, the first active player to come out as gay. Clearly, Gruden is the wrong person to be working in this type of environment, and his resignation should be accepted by players and fans alike.

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