The NFL has created another mess for itself.
The league cannot seem to get its act together after the past five seasons.
And the NFL’s legal troubles got worse after one comment from a Hall of Famer.
Former Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden is suing the NFL, and his case cleared the threshold of not being dismissed.
Gruden is suing the league for defamation, arguing that someone inside the NFL leaked private emails to The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times as part of an investigation into Washington Commanders owner Daniel Snyder.
The league scoured through hundreds of thousands of emails looking for misconduct on the part of the Commanders’ organization regarding treatment of cheerleaders, and supposedly the only objectionable emails found were a handful that Gruden sent to then-GM Bruce Allen when he was a broadcaster for ESPN.
Gruden is no fan of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, which was made clear in the damaging emails.
Gruden was painted as a racist and a sexist, and was forced to step down amid a torrent of criticism.
But Hall of Fame defensive tackle Warren Sapp, who won a Super Bowl with Gruden when he coached the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, came to Gruden’s defense.
The email comment that got Gruden in the most trouble was when he said that NFL Players’ Association President DeMaurice Smith, who is black, had “lips the size of Michelin tires.”
Gruden claimed he calls liars “rubber lips” all the time, but that did not satisfy the mob.
Sapp explained, “That’s racist? If he walked in and said, ‘When I walk in my locker room it looks like I got a bunch of DeMaurice Smiths in there by the mouth,’ that would be a racial trope…But to say DeMaurice Smith got big lips? Yeah, DeMaurice Smith got big lips just like Barack Obama got big ears. We been calling Big-Lipped Johnny ‘Big-Lipped Johnny’ for the last 40 years…I bet this is the first time in DeMaurice Smith’s life someone called him ‘big-lipped’ and he said it was racist.”
Coincidentally, NFL players have been critical of Smith over the years because they believe he’s too pro-management in negotiations.
Smith’s role as player rep was up for a vote before the Gruden incident happened, and he was able to maintain his position in the aftermath of the media circus.
Sapp continued, “You’re not going to call my head coach a racist…I sat in front of him for two years and I’m a child of the South. I was raised in Florida. There’s no way a fire-breathing racist would be in front of me or on my speed dial and we haven’t had a real discussion about your tendencies to not see the black man on your level. There’s no way Jon Gruden’s that.”
Sapp also said that Gruden is breaking new ground by getting this far in suing the NFL.
If the other hundreds of thousands of emails get exposed, it would be a nightmare for the league to explain why only Gruden’s emails were leaked.