Daniel Kehn is a freshman journalism and telecommunications news major and writes for the The Daily News. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the newspaper.
Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden resigned Oct. 11 after he was discovered to be using homophobic, racist and misogynistic slurs casually as recently as 2018.
The New York Times detailed a good amount of Gruden’s emails, including a particular case in 2011, when he wrote to Bruce Allen, then president of the Washington Football Team. Gruden used racist stereotypes to degrade DeMaurice Smith, the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) executive director, who is Black.
Gruden also lambasted women becoming referees and discouraged the drafting of openly gay players — specifically Missouri linebacker Michael Sam, who became the first openly gay player to be drafted in the National Football League (NFL) in 2014. Gruden coached defensive end Carl Nassib, the NFL’s first active openly gay player, from 2020-21.
As a sports enthusiast, I could not agree more with the situation’s repercussions. Gruden got what he deserved for making his comment, and hundreds of other homophobic and misogynistic statements.
But this incident is not isolated.
Gruden is a symptom of a larger illness — one that has plagued the NFL for decades.
The NFL discovered Gruden's wrongdoings during a separate workplace investigation into the Washington Football Team, an organization which has held a poor reputation in recent years.
The case in question was specifically focused on Daniel Snyder, the Football Team's controversial owner, and his feud with investors in the franchise. Synder left the investigation unscathed in terms of team ownership, but was fined $10 million Jul. 2. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell determined the Football Team’s culture was a breeding ground for sexual harassment, bullying and harmful treatment of employees.
Even though the NFL cracked down on this case, the job is not being done well enough.
It is no secret this type of behavior has marred the NFL's image for years, but there is still little being done about it.
New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft was charged with soliciting prostitution in 2018 after paying for a massage at a Florida spa tied to an international human trafficking ring. The charges were eventually dropped, and Kraft now continues to serve as the Patriots owner and has won six Super Bowl rings.
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was accused of sexual assault in separate lawsuits in Nevada (2009) and Georgia (2010). Even though Roethlisberger was never charged, he was suspended for six games (later reduced to four) of the 2010 NFL season. Roethlisberger is now currently playing his 18th season in the NFL, and is projected to be a first-ballot Hall of Fame player.
2021 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee quarterback Peyton Manning was accused of sexual assault in 1996 by Jamie Ann Naughright, a trainer at the University of Tennessee. Naughright said Manning pressed his genitals against her face during a routine foot exam. Manning claimed that he was playing a prank on another teammate, but both Naughright and the teammate denied Manning’s story. The trainer settled for $300,000 with the university and resigned from her position. Manning is now hailed as one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history.
Three examples in less than 300 words. Three men did what they wanted to do, without any idea of the repercussions, and got away with it. These are just a few of the countless instances of men in sports doing what they please and still benefiting. There are more men like this, coaching on the sideline, recruiting players and administrating teams — all the while spreading the disease of hate and hurt across the sports landscape.
It's apparent fines and soft suspensions are not the answer to the problem — punishments need to be severe and well documented. The NFL has shown repeatedly its incapable of dealing with real-world matters off the football field and within the front offices of organizations, and they need to start making changes.
The example professional athletes and coaches set for young men in the sports world is alarming, and I am horrified at the idea of my generation thinking this behavior is acceptable.
I can guarantee you that there are dozens, if not hundreds, of NFL executives, journalists, coaches and administrators shaking at the idea of all the terrible things they have said or done being brought into the light of day.
I truly hope this is a turning point in the NFL, and we begin to see more men held to the standards Gruden was. They are not immortal and need to be held accountable for their actions.
Contact Daniel Kehn with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @kehn_daniel.