Roy Exum: Jon Gruden's Mistakes

Wednesday, October 13, 2021 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

There is a most delightful meme circling around the Internet of a furious Nick Saban shown during a game, with the caption, “I want all them d*** Charger, Camaro, and Challenger keys on my desk first thing tomorrow morning!” A lot of men and women and students think that’s funny, particularly in light of the fact Saban’s top-ranked Alabama was upset by unranked Texas A&M last Saturday night. No, Nick would never joke about Alabama supplying supercars to student-athletes – a total falsehood -- but millions have giggled over the meme because it’s funny.

So funny that I forwarded it on to a group on my inside friends who know I adore “funny but not filthy.” Matter of fact, I share a lot of Internet mirth with my pals all the time and, in honest candor, some of what makes me laugh is “too rich” for the general public or the website, Chattanoogan.com.

So yes, what just got Jon Gruden fired as the head coach of Las Vegas could…in a long reach of the “woke generation”…get me zapped from this website. I am staunchly not “woke” but oh how I love to share some of the giggles that come my way.

Gruden, age 58, has been accused of sending some racist, homophobic, and misogynistic emails that have since been found as not funny at all. Believe me, there is a thin and delicate line even in a locker room or beer tavern. While I would never try to get a laugh out of some of the stuff Jon has reportedly said or emailed, the bigger sin is that for a guy in the middle of a 10-year, $100 million contract, he failed to have the bearing, judgement, and principles that our society rightly demands of its superstars.

One of the really, truly funny men of our time is comedian Chris Rock who tells candidly what almost cost him everything. He was the toast of comedy, with sold out shows and TV specials until one day he started noticing some empty seats. Showtime and HBO quit calling. Video sales sagging and interviews becoming sparse, “Mr. Funny” started to panic.

He sought out a longtime celebrity coach who minced few words, “Chris, you have become so vulgar you are hideous. Filth is costing you your life.” According to the story, the coach ordered Rock to go back and watch tapes of the greats … Jonathan Winters (my all-time favorite), Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Red Skelton, Robin Williams … and identify the one trait each espoused. Chris said it didn’t take two days for him to learn not one of them ever cursed, used suggestive language, preyed on gays or blacks or women in a carnal way, yet were hysterically a joy.

Chris Rock changed, at least for a while, and the people came back. I have thought of this many times as I have watched Ron White, a huge talent, and -- of course – the rest of the “Blue Collar Comedy Tour.” It is all so simple. Yet Gruden, in his fourth season with the Raiders, just left $60 million for the next six years because he failed to see the demands inherent of who he has become.

* * *

In 1991 Gruden was a graduate assistant coach at the University of Tennessee – under head coach John Majors – and married a UT cheerleader, formerly Cindy Brooks of Knoxville. He and Cindy have been married for 30 years and she created a COVID online course for UT in 2020. The Grudens have three children, the oldest son Deuce being the strength and conditioning coach for the Raiders. Obviously they live in Las Vegas but don’t be surprised if they don’t come back east to a town near you.

* * *

Gruden, aside from being a highly-paid TV commentator for ESPN, coached the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2002 and helped them reach and win the Super Bowl XXXVII on January 26, 2003. Yesterday the Bucs announced they have removed his name from the team’s “Ring of Honor.” "While we acknowledge Jon Gruden's contributions on the field," the team said, "his actions go against our core values as an organization. Therefore, he will no longer continue to be a member of the Buccaneers Ring of Honor."

* * *

Skechers, the athletic shoe company, has terminated its contract with the former Las Vegas Raiders head coach, this after learning the 58-year-old wrote racist, homophobic and misogynistic emails from 2011 to 2018. "Skechers is aware of the recent press reporting on the emails of Jon Gruden, which caused him to resign his NFL coaching position," a spokesperson for the shoe giant said in a statement Tuesday. "Upon learning of these developments, we immediately terminated Mr. Gruden’s endorsement contract and our affiliation with him."

"Skechers believes in equality, fostering tolerance, and understanding for all people," the spokesperson said. "It is at the core of who we are as a global lifestyle brand and why we have a zero-tolerance policy for such behavior within our business including those with whom we formally work with. We believe taking a stand against racist or derogatory comments and for inclusion of all is imperative."

* * *

And all of this over ridiculously stupid emails.

royexum@aol.com

Jon Gruden
Jon Gruden

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