Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden used a racist trope to describe the head of the NFL Players Association in a 2011 email, The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.
Gruden, who at the time was an ESPN broadcaster, used racist language to describe NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith in an email that was reportedly sent to Bruce Allen, president of the NFL franchise now known as the Washington Football Team.
“Dumboriss Smith has lips the size of michellin tires,” Gruden wrote, according to the Journal.
The newspaper noted that the comment came as the NFL’s team owners and its players were at a crossroads regarding a collective bargaining agreement that was still being hashed out amid a months-long lockout.
Gruden told the Journal he did not remember writing the email but apologized for the remark and said he had been upset with the way that the player negotiations were being handled at the time.
“I’m really sorry,” he told the Journal.
He said he previously used the phrase “rubber lips” when he believed people were not being truthful but acknowledged that he had been upset and that “I used a horrible way of explaining it.”
“I don’t have a racial bone in my body,” Gruden said, adding that he did not believe that Smith was “dumb” or a “liar.”
In a statement to The Hill, Smith said: “This is not the first racist comment that I’ve heard and it probably will not be the last. This is a thick skin job for someone with dark skin, just like it always has been for many people who look like me and work in corporate America.”
“You know people are sometimes saying things behind your back that are racist just like you see people talk and write about you using thinly coded and racist language,” he added.
Smith said he was sorry his family had to see the racist language, but that he would rather they be aware of it.
The NFL said, “The email from Jon Gruden denigrating DeMaurice Smith is appalling, abhorrent and wholly contrary to the NFL’s values. We condemn the statement and regret any harm that its publication may inflict on Mr. Smith or anyone else.”
The Las Vegas Raiders’ owner, Mark Davis, issued a statement on Twitter, calling the email's contents were “disturbing” and “not what the Raiders stand for.”
“We were first made aware of the email late yesterday by a reporter and are reviewing it along with other materials provided to us today by the NFL,” Davis said in a statement. “We are addressing the matter with Coach Gruden and will have no further comment at this time.”
The Hill has reached out to the NFL Player’s Association for comment.