Jon Gruden Email Scandal Is A Boomerang Now Aimed At NFL Itself
The Jon Gruden email scandal is not over and now the NFL itself is under scrutiny.
The first episode of this saga claimed its intended target as the Las Vegas Raiders coach resigned on Monday and the process of wiping him from the NFL landscape continued Tuesday.
Proof the Gruden name is being scrubbed came from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who announced their former Super Bowl winning coach would be expunged from the team’s Ring of Honor.
— Armando Salguero (@ArmandoSalguero) October 12, 2021
But this is unlikely to stop at Gruden. Nor should it.
The issue has already turned attention to the Washington Football Team, club owner Daniel Snyder, the NFL’s hostile workplace investigation of the Washington Football Team, and the NFL itself.
This could get uglier, folks.
Let’s begin at the beginning:
In July of 2020, the NFL fined the WFT $10 million for what commissioner Roger Goodell concluded was many years in which the workplace environment at the club, both generally and particularly for women, was “highly unprofessional.”
“Bullying and intimidation frequently took place and many described the culture as one of fear, and numerous female employees reported having experienced sexual harassment and a general lack of respect in the workplace,” the NFL said in a press release.
As part of the nearly year-long investigation into the WFT, approximately 650,000 emails and other materials were collected as evidence. None of that evidence was released publicly to comply with the NFL investigation’s promise of confidentiality.
But emails gathered as part of that treasure trove of evidence included the Gruden emails to then Washington general manager and later president Bruce Allen.
And those emails were leaked, some on Friday to the Wall Street Journal, and others on Monday to the New York Times. The emails showed Gruden using offensive language about Goodell, whom he called a “clueless antifootball pussy,” and a “f—–t.”
Gruden referred to gays disparagingly. And the coach referred to NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith, who is black, as “Dumboriss Smith” and added, “he has lips the size of Michelin tires.”
Here’s the problem beyond Gruden:
The NFL either willfully leaked those emails or someone within the NFL did. And now the hunger for more emails is palatable.
The law firm representing 40 former employees of the WFT released a statement Tuesday calling on the NFL to “immediately release the full findings of the independent investigation,” which was never made public.
“It is truly outrageous that after the NFL’s 10-month long investigation involving hundreds of witnesses and 650,000 documents related to the longtime culture of harassment and abuse at the Washington Football Team, the only person to be held accountable and lose their job is the coach of the Las Vegas Raiders,” the release read.
They’re not wrong.
The NFL’s problem is it clearly has no stomach for releasing materials that might be embarrassing to current WFT personnel, including club owner Daniel Snyder.
Neither Snyder nor any other Washington executive was suspended at the conclusion of the investigation. No reviewable report was drafted. And no specifics the investigation unearthed have come to light.
Snyder, you see, is part of the NFL’s inner circle of billionaires. And exposing his written emails to scrutiny might cause another scandal that might lead to him having to sell one of the NFL’s legacy franchises.
The NFL clearly isn’t eager to have that happen.
So the NFL has no plans to release other investigation materials as it stands by the confidentiality promised as an element of that investigation.
That confidentiality was clearly violated with the Gruden email leaks. So after multiple national media outlets — including NFL broadcast partners — claimed the NFL had been party to the email leaks, the league pushed back on that Tuesday.
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told multiple national reporters via email that the NFL had released none of the Gruden emails to the media.
Again, the NFL is in possession of the materials. The NFL office is in New York City. The emails were released to two New York City newspapers.
But the league played no role in the leak of emails that, in parts, disparaged the league’s commissioner.
A problem for the NFL is we know it released emails to the Las Vegas Raiders. This is not disputable.
Because the Raiders said as much.
— Las Vegas Raiders (@Raiders) October 8, 2021
So the league that denies releasing to media any emails that led to Gruden’s resignation actually released “confidential” materials to Gruden’s employer.
The league whose policy it has been to shield all evidence obtained during the Washington Football Team workplace investigation released some of that evidence to a different team — the Las Vegas Raiders.
It’s obvious the NFL wanted Gruden out. The league didn’t want the person who authored those emails working for one of its teams.
“The email from Jon Gruden denigrating DeMaurice Smith is appalling, abhorrent and wholly contrary to the NFL’s values,” the NFL said in a statement Friday. “We condemn the statement and regret any harm that its publication may inflict on Mr. Smith or anyone else.”
Curiously, when the league sent the Raiders the materials to augment the ones reported in the Wall Street Journal on Friday, not a lot happened.
Gruden coached the team on Sunday. He apologized publicly and even held his normal press conferences on Sunday and Monday. It seemed possible Raiders owner Mark Davis might somehow stick with his coach.
The NFL sent the Raiders additional Jon Gruden emails to review on top of the negative one that surfaced last week and, per sources around the league, the NFL is actively monitoring the situation and waiting to see how the team will handle the matter.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) October 11, 2021
But, you see, the NFL was watching throughout the weekend. And it saw Gruden hanging on.
So the Times’ leak came Monday evening. It was almost strategic in its timing. And it was the fatal blow.
One more problem from all this:
Either the NFL willfully leaked those emails — denial notwithstanding — or someone high enough within the NFL to have access to the emails did — in which case the league has a different kind of problem.
That problem would be that the league has a high-ranking official so powerful he or she feels comfortable leaking confidential evidence from a league investigation ostensibly to damage someone he or she wants fired.
And if the league doesn’t conduct an investigation to unmask and then have that individual fired, an NFL culture of mistrust just added a new advocate.
Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero
Author: Armando Salguero