Corruption in the NFL Exposed

Thousands of extremely offensive emails between NFL executives have been uncovered, setting off a domino effect that cost the careers of some of the nation’s most successful coaches.

Ex-Las Vegas Raiders head coach and Monday Night Football host Jon Gruden, former General Manager of the Washington Football Team Bruce Allen, and dozens of other league executives and businessmen were exposed by NFL investigations for an extensive email chain of racist, misogynistic, and homophobic remarks dating from 2011-2018. Among the many targeted groups, one person Gruden most notably denigrated was DeMaurice Smith, the Executive Director of NFL Players Association, who is Black.

“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,” Smith said in his response. “I’m sorry my family has to see something like this but I would rather they know. I will not let it define me.”

The racist comments targeting Smith are one of thousands made since 2011, and have proven to reflect a systemic issue in the NFL, whose roster is approximately 70% Black

“I don’t have a racial bone in my body, and I’ve proven that for 58 years,” Gruden insisted in a recent interview with The Wall Street Journal, despite contradicting evidence that was pulled directly from his inbox.

Some of Gruden’s other emails included the mockery of female referees, the derision of drafting the first openly gay player, explicit photos of women, and the usage of homophic slurs describing members and supporters of the NFL’s already limited LGBTQ+ community. The league addressed the backlash they have received since the emails were exposed.

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

These disparaging emails written by a considerable amount of powerful NFL executives are not the only examples of corruption in the league. Adam Schefter, the NFL’s leading journalist, was recently exposed for sending drafts of his articles to his sources for pre-publication edits. In the most popular case, the email was to Bruce Allen, who, at the time, was the general manager of the Washington Football Team.

“The criticism being levied is fair,” Schefter said in his statement. “With that said, I want to make this perfectly clear: in no way did I, or would I, cede editorial control or hand over final say about a story to anyone, ever.”

Journalists are trusted to deliver readers a completely fair and unbiased story; an expectation that does not include referring to a source as “Mr. Editor” when asking for a revision of an unpublished article. While he defends the notion that he did not infringe on any journalistic principles, Jemele Hill, a writer for The Atlantic, vehemently opposes his actions.

“I’ve been a journalist for over 20 years now,” Hill tweeted. “I’ve never let a source proofread, preview or edit any story. Majority of journalists I know have never done this either. Young journalists, that is not how it’s done. Ever.”

These messages reveal how powerful people in the league and their sponsors think and talk about the players and the issues that have swirled around the league in recent years.”

— MSNBC columnist Dave Zirin

Exposing the dishonesty of one of the most notable journalists in the United States has sent the media into an uproar as it violated journalistic integrity and infringed on ESPN readers’ trust. Not only will journalists now have to work harder to regain public trust in the integrity of their articles, but their efforts of exposing the systemic flaws of the NFL and other major organizations in the US are all the more necessary. 

“This was a blatantly unethical journalistic practice,” New York Times sports reporter Kevin Draper tweeted.

Gruden and Schefter’s actions are not the only reasons the NFL has been under fire recently. The league’s concussion settlement was recently revealed to make it considerably more difficult for Black retirees to get the same payouts as their white equivalents. 

“I’m not going to like, try to, like, not, not function … just wait, you know like wait, wait to die,” retired offensive tackle Rick Cunningham said. The former football player suffers from brain damage and received as much as 4.3 million dollars less than some of his white counterparts.

The copious amount of exposed emails and unprofessional practices reveal indisputable corruption within the NFL despite all the new policies that have come out, including the acceptance of openly gay players or women referees. The sincerity of the league’s progressive strides has been increasingly questioned since the exposure of their discriminatory roots.

These messages reveal how powerful people in the league and their sponsors think and talk about the players and the issues that have swirled around the league in recent years,” MSNBC columnist Dave Zirin said.

The NFL needs to hire more Black executives, acknowledge their prejudiced system head on and actively work to combat similar cases, because Jon Gruden is not an anomaly.

”The point is that Gruden’s emails reveal a rot so much deeper and systemic than the racist, sexist and homophobic musings of one random jackass,” Zirin writes. “It shows how the powers that be revel in the ugliest dynamics of their sport.”