By Elwood Watson
He said the quiet part out loud is a phrase commonly used in the Black community when referring to whites and others who reveal their innermost thoughts.
Former Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden resigned earlier this week after a trove of racist, homophobic misogynistic and xenophobic attributed to him publicly surfaced.
Gruden made bigoted, anti-gay and misogynistic comments for more than decade, but was only held accountable for such odious behavior when his scurrilous remarks became public property. Among other things, he callously said DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the NFL Players Association, possessed “lips the size of Michelin tires,” and referred to the league’s commissioner, Roger Goodell, using homophobic and misogynistic slurs.
Gruden also criticized Goodell for recruiting LGBTQ football players, sent photos of topless women to other coaches, and denounced the recruitment of female referees. The list of disgraceful, reductive commentary goes on.
An in-depth expose published by New York Times detailed that Goodell directed league officials to review 650,000 emails that were sent over the past few months. The NFL launched an investigation to look into allegations of sexism, and other indignities that plagued the league which as of this moment, have only barely scratched the surface.
The league fined the Washington Redskins $10 million for workplace misconduct, but gave owner Dan Snyder a benign slap on the wrist and have steadfastly refused to release any comprehensive materials that could potentially shed light on untoward behavior.
Let’s be honest, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to conclude why the league has resisted opening up emails for public consumption. Those of us who are Black Americans definitely know the answer.
As is often the case with individuals when caught and exposed with their hand in the racist cookie jar, Gruden reverted to the “Who me? Nah man, I’m not a bigot. There is not a racist bone in my body. That is not who I am” dishonest defense. Well guess what, Gruden — your actions and emails blatantly demonstrate otherwise! You embody all of the traits you profess not to harbor.
Gruden and certain other members of the NFL are representative of a segment of Americans who long for a time where Blacks and, in some cases, Jews, were occasionally seen, certainly not heard from, and deprived of any sense of dignity, fairness and equality. Women were largely relegated to second-class status, were of no competition in the workplace, had to often quietly overlook or turn a blind eye to infidelity or spousal abuse, and were largely relegated to objects of sexual objectification. LGBTQ people were seen as less than human, regarded as deviants, perverts and unworthy of any form of respect. Disabled people were seen as quasi-human, burdensome and semi-tragic figures.
Yes, for a notable segment of Americans like Gruden, these were indeed the “good ol’ days.”
Gruden and Bruce Allen arrogantly believed that their comments would not enter into the public domain. Truth be told, they had ample reason to believe such a possible reality. For more than a decade they were given free rein to engage in such perverted, hyper levels of toxic masculinity.
While there has always been a segment of Americans that have harbored rabid levels of hostility and hatred toward non-white people and other marginalized groups, these men and women were largely forced to resort to discussing and reaffirming their racist, anti-Semitic, bigoted, myopic, sectarian and other reductive and largely pathological viewpoints with other like-minded individuals.
Their bigoted views were largely confined to white supremacist newsletters and magazines, obscure far right radio programs and the darkest, racially sordid corners of the web. This was primarily the case up until a few years ago.
The current climate has afforded individuals such as Gruden, Allen, and other closet racists a green light to express their regressive viewpoints with growing levels of fierce pride and confidence. The NFL is just a microcosm of this rabidly festering cancer saturating our society.
Elwood Watson is a professor of history, Black studies, and gender and sexuality studies at East Tennessee State University. He is also an author and public speaker.