As an investigation of the Washington Football Team wrapped up over the summer—with a $10 million fine for workplace abuse—another was just beginning. During that initial probe, prompted by sexual harassment complaints, the NFL had received 650,000 emails from the work account of former Washington executive Bruce Allen, which were viewed as being outside of the investigation's scope, reports the Wall Street Journal. So officials launched another—one that would ultimately lead to Jon Gruden's resignation as head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders.
A targeted search of the communications revealed emails stretching back a decade in which Gruden, who previously worked with Allen at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, had used a racist trope in reference to DeMaurice Smith, the Black leader of the Players' Association, along with other homophobic, transphobic, and misogynistic language. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was briefed on the findings last week, as the league planned to meet with the Raiders, per the Journal. But the emails leaked to media outlets, including the Journal, before that could happen.
Gruden, who had yet to be disciplined two days after the Journal reported on his 2011 comment about Smith, apologized repeatedly before resigning Monday, saying he didn't want to be a distraction. (CNN notes the first active openly gay NFL player, Carl Nassib, plays for the Raiders.) By Tuesday, the Buccaneers had condemned his remarks and announced that he would be removed from the team's Ring of Honor. Gruden led the team to its first Super Bowl title in the 2002 season before leaving the organization in 2008.
Smith tells USA Today that the Players' Association will now request the release of the emails. "The fact that someone can simply reduce you in a nanosecond to something less because of the color of your skin or your sexual preference or how you identify yourself makes your head explode," he says. But in "recognizing that there are people within our system that engage in or support ideas that we know are inconsistent with fairness and justice and equality," there is "an opportunity to understand and fix what I believe are systemic problems in diverse hiring in the league." (Read more Jon Gruden stories.)