Bucs Hall of Fame defensive tackle Warren Sapp has come to the defense of his former head coach Jon Gruden.
The Raiders fired Gruden, who was their head coach, in October of 2021 after e-mails surfaced from a decade ago when he was at ESPN that contained language deemed to be racist, anti-gay and misogynistic.
The e-mails were sent to former Washington general manager Bruce Allen, PDQ restaurants founder Nick Reader, Outback Bowl executive Jim McVay and Hooters co-founder Ed Droste. The handful of Gruden’s e-mails, which are part of 650,000 e-mails from the Washington Football Team that are under investigation, were leaked to the New York Times.
Former Bucs head coach Jon Gruden – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR
In the e-mails, Gruden called NFL commissioner Roger Goodell a homophobic slur and “an anti-football p—y.” He used a derogatory term when talking about former football player Michael Sam, who is openly gay. Gruden also used racially derogatory language to describe NFLPA president DeMaurice Smith.
Sapp Says That Gruden Is Not A Racist
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Yet Sapp, who won a Super Bowl with Gruden in 2002, defended his former head coach, saying that Gruden’s comments might have been crass, but not racist. Sapp’s comments were in an interview on VladTV via Nick Geddes of Outkick.com.
“Wait, wait, wait – where’s the racist term?” Sapp said in an interview on VladTV. “That’s racist? If he walked in and said 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’ve 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.”
Sapp said there is no way Gruden is a racist.
“You’re not going to call my head coach a racist,” Sapp said. “I sat in front of him for two years and I’m a child of the South, 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.”
While Sapp defended Gruden against charges of racism, he stopped well short of absolving his former head coach of any wrongdoing with the language used in those e-mails.
“The rest of that is way out of line, across the board,” Sapp said. “No, just not racist,” Sapp said. “Don’t put that tag on him. The stuff about Michael Sam and Goodell being some not-football-knowing whatever, ah, come on. But we all know people that talk like that.
“Hey, if you are a racist, I guarantee you the ‘N-word’ would’ve shown up in them e-mails. I guarantee you.”
Sapp points out that Gruden did not use the “N-word” in any of those e-mails.
Sapp Believes Gruden Will Triumph Legally Over The NFL
Gruden is suing Goodell and the NFL for purposefully leaking those few select e-mails out of the 650,000 other e-mails from the Washington Football Team. He said that the NFL destroyed his coaching and broadcasting career using a “malicious and orchestrated campaign.”
Gruden scored two major court victories in Nevada in May. Gruden and the NFL do not have to go arbitration to settle, and Gruden’s case can proceed.
With the lawsuit allowed to continue, Gruden and his lawyers can now pursue legal discovery. They will attempt to unearth the contents of the other 650,000 e-mails that the public hasn’t seen. The fallout from those e-mails could be very damaging to the Washington Commanders, other teams and the league itself.
“It’s just starting and the hits will keep on coming,” Sapp said. “You know this like I do, Vlad. When you have gathered 650,000 e-mails and only six of them get released, the first thing your lawyer is going to ask for is discovery. Once I ask for discovery, it’s over at that point. Absolutely over.”
Sapp predicts Gruden will legally triumph over the NFL in the end.
“They will roll over, they’re absolutely going to roll over,” Sapp said. “They have to. This is the worst thing they could possibly imagine. Can you imagine what those e-mails say? Because we only saw what Gruden said. Where are the chains of replies?”
Scott Reynolds is in his 27th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive coordinator/defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]
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