Dropping the Ball

Jon Gruden, an NFL head coach with a $100 million contract from the Las Vegas Raiders, was recently forced to resign after making what the Ebony Times called racist, homophobic, and misogynistic remarks in emails over the past twelve years. Shock horror, pro footballers making misogynistic remarks, why I never heard of such a thing, it’s definitely un-American. Call the midwife, or better yet, the fuzz.

Gruden won a Super Bowl with the Buccaneers in 2002 and then was a commentator for ESPN until hired by Oakland–Las Vegas. In other words, he’d been around forever, was highly respected, and knew the game and the people involved as well as anybody. Now he’s become a nobody overnight because the media and the football commissioner said so. Like in the Soviet of old, a nonperson is one found guilty by a kangaroo court, executed or disappeared by the regime, and never mentioned again. Over here, in the so-called freest country in the world, one does not even get a kangaroo court; he turns into a nonperson overnight once the Ebony Times and the media decide that he or she used the wrong words.

Gruden’s bad words—and I apologize to readers but they’re important to this story—were as follows: Where racism is concerned, he makes fun of a black football executive’s lips as being like tires. Where misogyny is concerned, he calls someone a pussy, and he uses the word “faggot” to describe the NFL’s commissioner (who happens to be straight).

Now, I like to think I’m not too racist, not too misogynistic, and not too homophobic, but having spent my life in locker rooms and in competitions, the offending words are more of a joke to me than insults. “Don’t be a pussy” is part of the language, for God’s sake, and in the sport of wrestling—in which I competed for years—a full nelson is called a faggot’s grip. And speaking of fat lips, I can’t think of any boy with a full mouth who wasn’t called liverlips in the all-white, all-boys boarding school I attended.

Mind you, if Her Serene Highness Princess Alexandra Schoenburg-Hartenstein, now plain Mrs. Taki, my wife, used Gruden’s language I might have raised an eyebrow, but in the world of professional sport where motherf—er is used nonstop as a greeting, noun and verb, the coach’s words were almost innocuous. The NFL being a franchise, I am told, can terminate someone if that someone brings the NFL into disrepute. In Gruden’s case, he resigned before being fired by the owner under pressure from the commissioner. The NFL stated that those emails were “wholly contrary to the NFL’s values.”


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