Let me say this first. I woke up Monday morning to the sad news that Gen. Colin Powell passed away. I thank him for his courageous leadership and his service to this country. Rest in Peace, Gen. Powell.
Now, to the subject at hand — the sudden resignation of NFL head coach Jon Gruden of the Las Vegas Raiders may be a teachable moment for America. His resignation came after it was discovered that Gruden had a 10-year history of sending racist (a world I intensely dislike), homophobic, misogynistic and anti-gay emails to and about people in his orbit, including NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
As the news unfolded, public opinion was split. From liberal and progressive camps, the prevailing opinion was that Gruden was a so-so coach and a horrible man who should have resigned immediately.
Ultra-conservative right wingers took the diametrically opposed position, invoking free speech issues and claiming that Gruden was a great coach who should not have resigned and, in so doing, forfeit seven years and the remaining months of his $100 million 10-year contract with the Raiders.
As a result of the opposing views, the two groups rushed into their ideological caves and began hurling verbal rocks at each other. That is how we behave. And that is why a teachable moment in the conduct of public discourse may be missed. It’s time to push the pause button and to think.
School teachers appreciate the meaning of teachable moment. It is the moment when a learner suddenly catches on, and a previously difficult subject becomes easier to grasp.
This moment is rooted in real world experiences, examples (role models?) and learned experience. It doesn’t mean that the learner suddenly knows everything, but the person knows enough to ask the right questions and to solve a problem.
In Gruden’s case, the real world experience is that his emails deliberately were leaked by the NFL as it investigated the alleged toxic environment at another team’s front office, the Washington Football Team (formerly the Washington Redskins).
The emails included photos of nude cheerleaders and young waitresses from the Hooter’s restaurant chain. In its self-investigation, it is believed the league has gathered more than 600,000 emails to review. Among them, there may be many more racist, homophobic, misogynistic emails from Gruden.
These facts raise two questions in my mind. One, why would the NFL leak such damaging information on one of the darlings of the sport? Two, why would Gruden resign and, as a potential result, lose millions?
To the first question, from what I figure, the NFL leaks happened because of Gruden’s profane emailed remarks about Commissioner Goodell.
As to all the hubbub about his being racist, homophobic and misogynistic — bad traits all — I believe the league knew about them but ignored them. Here’s why.
The 32 NFL teams (with the exception of Green Bay) are owned by an elite group of billionaires of European descent. Most of these owners are between 65 and 80 years old.
What that means is that they likely grew up in environments where racial slurs, misogyny and that sort of thing were commonplace — at home, in school, in their places of work and, well, everywhere. Therefore, Gruden’s remarks were not unfamiliar to them. They were normal.
And so, why did Gruden resign? Foremost, I think, the investigation into the toxic culture at the Washington team, and the ugly content of his emails, could embarrass the entire league. Therefore, it’s my guess he did not resign. He was forced to resign.
The connection is, by forcing him to resign, the league is protecting itself. After all, with more than two-thirds of NFL players being Black, the league would not want those guys taking a knee on any given football Sunday. This would scandalize their self-promoted image, their brand, as a progressive, socially conscious organization.
The sudden resignation of Jon Gruden is a teachable moment. It doesn’t matter whether or not you agree with my conclusions. What matters is that this moment, and many others, provide us with an opportunity to think and learn.
Gruden’s resignation is about the NFL brand. It’s about money. Consequently, why should you and I throw verbal rocks at each other? With the facts, and in the context of opinions I’ve shared with you, the situation will play itself out, and there is no need for poor folk like us to get all scuffed up in the infighting.
Have a nice day.