Sep 19, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;  Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden looks at his play chart against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the fourth quarter at Heinz Field. Las Vegas won 26-17.  Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

More emails surface as NFL monitors Jon Gruden situation

More emails from Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden emails were forwarded by the NFL to the team after a racially sensitive communication surfaced last week, ESPN reported Monday.

According to the report, the NFL is monitoring the situation to see how the Raiders handle the situation.

In a report Friday from the Wall Street Journal, Gruden used racist language in a 2011 email when describing the appearance of DeMaurice Smith, the Black executive director of the NFLPA.

Gruden was working as ESPN’s color commentator for “Monday Night Football” at the time the initial email in question was sent.

The newspaper reached Gruden for comment, and he apologized while saying he did not recall writing the email in question. “I’m really sorry,” he said. Gruden again apologized Sunday after the Raiders were upset 20-9 by the Chicago Bears. Also on Sunday, he admitted to writing a series of emails a decade ago that disparaged NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and criticized several team owners.

“I can’t tell you how sick I am,” Gruden said. “I apologize again to De Smith. But I feel good about who I am, what I’ve done my entire life. And I apologize for the insensitive remarks I had. I had no racial intentions with those remarks at all. … I’m not like that at all. But I apologize.”

According to the Journal, the league uncovered the email while reviewing 650,000 emails during its investigation into the Washington Football Team’s workplace culture.

It is unclear whether Gruden will face punishment from the league or the Raiders.

“The email from Jon Gruden denigrating DeMaurice Smith is appalling, abhorrent and wholly contrary to the NFL’s values,” the NFL said in a statement. “We condemn the statement and regret any harm that its publication may inflict on Mr. Smith or anyone else.”

Smith, who has served as the players association’s executive director since 2009, told the Journal that it was “not the first racist comment that I’ve heard, and it probably will not be the last.”

Smith further addressed the subject on social media Monday.

“The email from Jon Gruden – and some of the reaction to it – confirms that the fight against racism, racist tropes and intolerance is not over,” Smith said in a four-post thread on Twitter. “This is not about an email as much as it is about a pervasive belief by some that people who look like me can be treated as less.”

–Field Level Media

Jan 31, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith speaks during the NFLPA press conference in advance of the Super Bowl LIII where the New England Patriots will play the Los Angeles Rams on Feb. 3, 2019 at Mercedes_Benz Stadium.  Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

NFLPA gives DeMaurice Smith another term

DeMaurice Smith will remain the NFL Players Association’s executive director for one more term, which will be his last, after the union’s Board of Player Representatives voted to retain him on Friday.

According to NFL Network and ESPN, Smith received the exact minimum number of votes to keep his job, 22 of 32. Of the other 10, eight reportedly dissented and two abstained.

Smith’s upcoming term might be as short as one year, per NFL Network.

NFLPA president JC Trotter, a Cleveland Browns center, wrote of Smith in a statement, “He was transparent with us about his interest in moving on after this term and for the stability and security of our union, he will work with our player leadership to ensure we have a succession plan in place for the next leader. De cares deeply about our union and about our players and we thank him for staying to help us secure a strong future for the NFLPA.”

Had Smith received fewer than 22 votes Friday, the union would have held an election in March to determine who would serve the next term. Smith could have run again as long as he got 16 or more votes Friday.

Smith and the NFLPA came under scrutiny after a faction of the players objected to the outcome of the most recent collective bargaining agreement talks. The current CBA, in place through 2030, was ratified on March 8, 2020, just before the sports world was shuttered due to the pandemic.

The news of Smith’s new term comes on the same day that his name made headlines for reasons outside his control. The Wall Street Journal reported that now-Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden referred to Smith using racist wording in an email sent in July 2011.

Gruden apologized in the wake of the report.

Smith told the Journal, in part, “This is not the first racist comment that I’ve heard and it probably will not be the last. … Racism like this comes from the fact that I’m at the same table as they are and they don’t think someone who looks like me belongs. I’m sorry my family has to see something like this but I would rather they know. I will not let it define me.”

–Field Level Media

Sep 19, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;  Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden looks at his play chart against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the fourth quarter at Heinz Field. Las Vegas won 26-17.  Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Jon Gruden described DeMaurice Smith with racist trope in 2011

Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden used racist language when describing DeMaurice Smith, the Black executive director of the NFLPA, in an email in 2011, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

“Dumboriss Smith has lips the size of michellin (sic) tires,” Gruden wrote in an email to then-Washington Football Team president Bruce Allen amid an NFL lockout.

Gruden was not coaching at the time, but rather working as ESPN’s color commentator for “Monday Night Football.”

The newspaper reached Gruden for comment, and he apologized while saying he did not recall writing the email in question. “I’m really sorry,” he said.

Gruden added in comments to ESPN that he felt “ashamed” and had given his players forewarning Friday that the report was coming out.

“I’m ashamed I insulted D. Smith,” Gruden told ESPN. “I never had a racial thought when I used it. … I’m embarrassed by what’s out there. I certainly never meant for it to sound that bad.”

According to the Journal, the league uncovered the email while reviewing 650,000 emails during its investigation into the Washington Football Team’s workplace culture.

It is unclear whether Gruden will face punishment from the league or the Raiders.

“The email from Jon Gruden denigrating DeMaurice Smith is appalling, abhorrent and wholly contrary to the NFL’s values,” the league said in a statement. “We condemn the statement and regret any harm that its publication may inflict on Mr. Smith or anyone else.”

Smith, who has served as the players association’s executive director since 2009, told the Wall Street Journal that it was “not the first racist comment that I’ve heard and it probably will not be the last.”

“This is a thick-skin job for someone with dark skin, just like it always has been for many people who look like me and work in corporate America,” he said. “You know people are sometimes saying things behind your back that are racist just like you see people talk and write about you using thinly coded and racist language.”

–Field Level Media

Jan 31, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA;  NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith during the NFLPA press conference at the Georgia World Congress Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Reports: DeMaurice Smith could be voted out as NFLPA chief

DeMaurice Smith’s days as the NFL Players Association’s executive director could be numbered, according to multiple media outlets.

Smith, who has held the NFLPA’s top position for the past 12 years, reportedly will learn his fate Friday evening. Per numerous reports, the 32 team player representatives will vote on whether to retain Smith, who needs to receive 22 votes to continue in his role.

If he fails to get 22 votes, there would be an election in March to determine the next executive director. Smith could run in that election as long as he receives at least 16 votes in Friday’s balloting.

Smith finds himself in this position because the NFLPA’s executive committee took a vote Tuesday night, according to media reports, and he failed to receive sufficient support from the 14-member committee. A unanimous vote would have kept Smith in his position, likely on a new three-year contract, but the vote reportedly was split evenly at 7-7.

If Smith had received six votes or fewer on Tuesday, his position would have been considered “open” and the process of finding a new executive director would have commenced.

Smith and the union were criticized by some players during the most recent round of collective bargaining agreement negotiations. The current CBA, which will be in place through 2030, was finalized on March 8, 2020, right before sports began to shut down because of the pandemic.

–Field Level Media

Feb 4, 2020; Tampa, FL, USA; NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith and Tampa Bay Buccaneers owner Malcolm Glazer speak before Super Bowl LV between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

NFLPA head backs players skipping voluntary workouts

NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith says the union is siding with players who are opting to skip voluntary workouts this offseason.

Players from nearly half of the league’s teams have announced they won’t attend voluntary offseason workouts, a right the union has fought for, which Smith pointed out in an interview on ESPN’s “SportsCenter” on Saturday.

“We’ve known for years that this is a voluntary workout where a lot of coaches put their finger on the scale and, while they call it voluntary, they expect players to show up,” said Smith.

“I think that what you’re seeing now is, for the first time, players exercising their voice … to say ‘no.’ And frankly it’s probably one of the few times that coaches have ever heard players say ‘no.’ And for some players, it’s probably the first time they’ve said ‘no’ to their coach.”

The league released its official, universal plan for teams with the offseason beginning officially on Monday with Phase I, which lasts four weeks and prohibits on-field work with coaches.

Players from several teams, including the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New England Patriots and Denver Broncos, issued statements in the past two days detailing their plans to skip voluntary workouts.

One point of contention for players is likely to be on-field organized team activities (OTAs), which remain in the offseason plan despite opposition from the NFLPA.

Smith points to last year’s fully virtual program as evidence that skipping voluntary workouts makes sense.

“This is a negotiated, bargained for, voluntary offseason workout where if someone came to you or me and said, ‘I have a way of cutting concussions by 30 percent and I know a way to decrease missed time to injuries by 23 percent,’ I would think that almost everyone would wholeheartedly embrace that whether it was voluntary or not.”

He also noted that the union has no objection to players who do show up.

“I think it’s important for players to make their own decisions, not only as professionals, not only as a way of taking ownership of their own healthcare, but making their own decision as a man,” said Smith.

Training camps are expected to begin the last week of July.

–Field Level Media

Feb 4, 2021; Tampa, FL, USA; NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith speaks during a press conference ahead of Super Bowl LV, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021 in Tampa, Fla. Mandatory Credit: Perry Knotts/Handout Photo via USA TODAY Sports

Report: NFLPA chief tells agents to collude on free-agent offers

NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith told player agents they should collude on free-agent offers to keep teams honest on the reduced salary cap, ESPN reported.

Smith made the comments during an all-agent seminar on Thursday, ESPN reported, citing a person on the videoconference.

Smith expects the 2021 salary cap to be close to the $180 million floor negotiated by the league and the NFLPA, per the report. The cap was $198.2 million last year, prior to the coronavirus pandemic slashing team and league revenues.

Smith told the agents it’s OK to work together to get best possible terms for players, per the report.

While teams are not allowed to collude, there’s no law against players exchanging information, per the report.

–Field Level Media

Jan 31, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith speaks during the NFLPA press conference in advance of the Super Bowl LIII where the New England Patriots will play the Los Angeles Rams on Feb. 3, 2019 at Mercedes_Benz Stadium.  Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

NFLPA expects virtual offseason, skeptical about vaccine availability

NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith anticipates the upcoming offseason closely mirroring the 2020 pandemic-altered approach the NFL adopted in the name of player safety.

Smith said there is a “very high likelihood” minicamps and offseason team activities will remain virtual, although some accommodations for first-year coaches and rookies could be made.

Commissioner Roger Goodell said the NFL learned it could work smarter, not harder, during the COVID-19 pandemic. The NFL and players’ union will begin discussing their approach to the offseason next week, Smith said.

The NFL draft is unlikely to be an in-person, fan-friendly event and the league already punted on the late February scouting combine. Personnel evaluations of incoming pro prospects will instead take place at pro days. Some in-person contact with prospects might be allowed, but more video interviews and workouts with draft-eligible players are expected.

Union president JC Tretter, who plays for the Cleveland Browns, said Thursday the players were “sharper, fresher” at the end of the season because of the shift away from in-person meetings and training at team facilities. Earlier this week, Tretter wrote in a memo released by the NFLPA that players should plan to fight the pandemic for at least another season.

“We will likely still feel the effects of the pandemic well into 2021,” Tretter wrote, “and as a result, we can expect to return to the bargaining table with the NFL yet again to re-examine all relevant issues as we look forward to the 2021 football season.”

Smith shared his skepticism about training camp and preseason games in 2021. No preseason games were played in August 2020. Availability of a vaccine could have an impact on players and coaches, but Goodell said safety will drive every decision.

“We’re proponents of the vaccine,” Goodell said. “That’s important for health of our communities. It’s too early to say if vaccines will be part of the solution. We hope much of our society will be vaccinated by the summer. We’ll adapt.”

Goodell said earlier Thursday that the NFL will not begin considering sold-out stadiums and “normal” Sunday scenes for several weeks, but hinted that “normal” for the league might need to be redefined.

“To think we’re going to be in a vaccine-neutral state by September is probably not the case,” Smith said.

–Field Level Media

Jan 31, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith speaks during the NFLPA press conference in advance of the Super Bowl LIII where the New England Patriots will play the Los Angeles Rams on Feb. 3, 2019 at Mercedes_Benz Stadium.  Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

NFLPA head: COVID-19 will not derail Super Bowl

Super Bowl LV will go on as planned on Sunday, even if the game’s biggest stars test positive for COVID-19, the NFL Players Association executive director said Wednesday.

As a guest on ESPN Radio’s “Keyshawn, JWill & Zubin,” DeMaurice Smith was asked if the game would be postponed if either of the star quarterbacks — Tom Brady of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs — were to test positive.

“I don’t see any scenario where we would agree with the league to move the Super Bowl,” Smith said. “I mean, look, we’ve had a difficult season. We’ve had teams in Cleveland, where I think JC Tretter, our union president, was breaking down film because they didn’t have a coach; we saw the Denver Broncos head into a [game] without a number of quarterbacks.

“I think it wouldn’t be fair to the rigor and the discipline that we’ve insisted that players have this year to move the Super Bowl,” he said.

The Chiefs currently have two players on the reserve/COVID-19 list — wide receiver Demarcus Robinson and backup center Daniel Kilgore. Both were considered high risks after their barber reportedly tested positive. They likely will be eligible to play in the game should they continue to test negative.

Smith said the players have done their best to limit their exposure to the virus. Throughout the testing period from Aug. 1 through Jan. 30, approximately 957,400 tests were administered. During that time, 262 players and 463 other personnel had confirmed positive cases, the NFL and NFLPA said in their weekly COVID-19 report on Tuesday.

“My hope, and certainly everybody’s hope, is that our players will continue to double down, do the great job that they’ve done all season, and we’ll get this fantastic game kicked off on time,” Smith said.

Kickoff for Super Bowl LV is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. ET on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. The Buccaneers are the first team to play in a Super Bowl in their home stadium.

–Field Level Media