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Jon Gruden’s Emails Are the Tip of the Iceberg

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It is worth keeping in mind, as disgraced now-former Raiders coach Jon Gruden careens into the maelstrom of American political discourse in the year 2021, that the horrific comments he made in emails a decade ago would have gotten him run out of the sport back then, too. In our current moment, whenever we discover that something terrible exists just below the surface of a (relatively) benign public figure, the conversation immediately veers into fights about cancel culture and mob mentality and every other bit of discourse that makes you want to hide under a chair.

But let’s not take that too far. We weren’t using the phrase “cancel culture” a decade ago, when Gruden sent emails calling NFL commissioner Roger Goodell a gay slur and deriding female referees, gay former player Michael Sam, and NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith in racist terms. But had those emails come out back then, there probably would have even been less debate about his fate then than there is now. An asshole 10 years ago looks a lot like an asshole now.

Gruden’s messages were discovered as a byproduct of an ongoing investigation into the Washington Football Team, specifically the workplace culture that owner Daniel Snyder had allowed to foster over two decades of owning the team. That Gruden was not the focus of the probe has led some of his defenders, as quiet as they are right now, to argue that he is collateral damage; that this wasn’t even supposed to be about him. But of course, it is about him just as it is about Snyder: It is about the........

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