Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden stepped down on October 11 amidst a scandal. His fate is actually a byproduct of the NFL’s investigation into the Washington Football Team’s ongoing scandal that involves a toxic work environment for women, among other things.
The fall of coach Gruden
Gruden’s contribution to this epic fail was sending emails to his buddy and former president of the Washington Football Team Bruce Allen (fired in 2019 for losing too much) while he was a popular analyst with ESPN that have generally been considered to have been racist, homophobic and misogynistic. While disparaging NFL commissioner Roger Goodell with epithets may seem like fair game, Gruden also criticized the league’s attempt to reduce concussions. Inexplicably, he said that the executive director of the NFL players association DeMaurice Smith had lips the size of Michelin tires and called him “Dumboriss.”
Allen was reportedly on board with this and other kinds of bad behavior, including Gruden sharing photos of topless cheerleaders with him and others. However, it is still baffling that an executive and someone working in media would think that these offensive emails would not somehow see the light of day. They should know better, but this is the driving point for past, present and (unless this conduct dramatically changes) likely, future scandals in the NFL.
The Washington workplace scandal
The Washington team still has a lot to answer for – in 2020, two dozen current and former employees came forward and cited endemic sexual harassment and verbal abuse that went back at least to the mid-2000s. It included unwanted sexual advances and orders to wear more revealing clothing. The misconduct allegedly involved Allen and various staff at all levels. The NFL subsequently commissioned an outside investigation that included digging through 650,000 emails, which is why Gruden enters and exits the picture.
The league then levied a $10 million fine on owner Daniel Snyder, who also was required to step away from operations. Snyder named his wife, Tanya, as a co-chief executive to take over the reins, and her tone-deaf remarks at the recent owners meeting only worsened matters. The investigation’s final report is done but yet to be made public. Many of the owners say they are satisfied, but Raiders’ owner Mark Davis is not — he could have presumably avoided the mid-season coaching change had he known of Gruden’s emails before the season began.
The end of the old boys’ club?
Daniel Snyder may ultimately be responsible for the organization’s behavior, but there is a general feeling that he may not be that different from other billionaire club owners. Calls for a Congressional inquiry into the Washington Football Team scandal as a Title VII workplace issue could result in more unflattering revelations similar to those about Jon Gruden. The good news is that perhaps it will also lead to penalties for bad behavior and perhaps change for the better.