In one rare occasion, DeMorris Smith found himself speechless.
The executive director of the NFL Players Association — a former trial attorney — can usually present a comprehensive (and sometimes lengthy) answer on any topic or matter of debate.
But finding the words to sum up the emotions they experienced during the mentally exhausting week proved challenging.
Smith learned last Wednesday that he was the subject of an abusive, 10-year-old email series of communications between John Gruden, now former coach of the Las Vegas Raiders and colleagues. The coach – working as an analyst for ESPN at the time – slammed Smith. racist criticism of his physical features and his intelligence. More After News First reported by wall street journal Broke down, Gruden insisted that he was not a racist.
Smith observed that the reaction to Gruden’s behavior ranged from criticism from some in the NFL community to a display of loyalty as others defended the coach.
On Monday, additional details of emails between Gruden and colleagues — some containing homophobic and anti-feminist language — were leaked. By the end of the night, Gruden had resigned as the Raiders’ head coach.
Smith discussed the trying episode with USA Today Sports, sharing his reaction to Gruden’s comments about him, concerns about the league, and his hopes that the disturbing experience was any good. can produce.
Following are the excerpts of the interview.
How would you summarize how these past five days have been for you?
“I don’t know how to do the sum of the week. I’m not shy. I don’t know how to do the sum of the week. (long pause) When I was asked to answer an email, it felt somewhat frustrating Somewhat shocked, and honestly, my first thought was, if this story is going to go on, I need to talk to my family.
“As you can imagine, I had other things going on. We had the (NFLPA) vote (to renew Smith’s contract) coming up on Friday, Washington Investigating DEA (Trainer Ryan Vermillion), which touches on the player’s safety. … the best way to frame it, when I got the news, was like, ‘Okay, let me make sure I keep in touch with my kids, and I need to talk to my parents. It is needed because I do not want to hear something like this from him for the first time.’ He’s used to my role as an executive in America’s Sports. They know that friends are not friends. People talk to him all the time. We talk about football and union stuff all the time. But it was clearly different. “
When and how did you find out about Gruden’s comments about yourself?
“Wednesday. I was told, ‘It may have been an email that mentioned you in a racist frame.’ … I saw the email later on Wednesday.”
Do you wonder what was said and who said it?
“I had no reaction that was different from the overall reaction to it and who it was. Does this make any sense? I didn’t sit there thinking, ‘Oh my god, I’ll feel a way the other way if it’s someone else.’ To me, the email was clearly thinking about a group of people in the email that they’d never get caught, and that meant people worried about business humiliation. I knew it was four or five people on the email chain, and other than the two people I know, I don’t know who anyone else is. But to be honest, my biggest conclusion was, ‘Wow, this was a group of people who were comfortable saying things like that.'”
As people of color, we know that there are often people who come across us who may put a smile on your face, but behind your back, they are making derogatory remarks. It just happens. So, is that why you didn’t get much feedback on who he was?
“I don’t want to say that it doesn’t matter who says it, because it’s not really true. But the reality is we know that all kinds of people do it. People of all positions do it, And the fact that it was a coach or that this coach doesn’t matter as much as it only confirms that people are still looking at you and saying things about you to your face that you know are enough. different in the way they characterize you or caricature you behind your back.”
There were some people who threw conspiracy theories out there: that you leaked the report to improve your chances of being re-elected, which is what Roger Goodell did in an attempt to help you. What was your reaction to that?
“Well, I guess, at first, you probably already know this, but I don’t spend a lot of my time reading the media, and I’m not a QAnon customer either.
But did it disappoint you? These racist comments were made about you, and for some the idea turned into an accusation.
“Yeah, there are two situations you’re talking about with an underlying theme. I focus more on the similarity of subject matter between them. ‘Let’s talk about something other than racism.’ So, whether you want to be a conspiracy theorist or you want to get on TV and try to explain or defend what people have said, the common theme that unites those two is the one thing we talk about. Don’t want to talk. Racism. It says a lot when some commentators chose to cover (Gruden) by expending more energy than addressing racism. And even responding to a conspiracy, or other people Instead of dealing with the apology by myself, I’ve tried to just focus on how we make it better.
Have you come up with an answer?
“Well, if I come up with an answer on how to end racism, I’ll let you know! I think what makes racism pervasive and persistent is people’s reluctance to face this fact.” That racism is America’s worst and continuing legacy. And when people engage in any tool to avoid dealing with it, you just continue to provide it and those who support it with fuel. “
But part of the problem with fighting racism is that some racist people don’t know they are racists.
“Right. Look, the thing that keeps racism alive is its refusal to believe that it’s there. And do whatever you can to allow the belief that you can degenerate and degenerate people.” One can reduce sexist, homophobic, racist, unfairly, allow you to advance the belief that there are some people who believe that other people are less than them. Right? And so, that’s no for me. Doesn’t matter, really – the person who made this statement didn’t matter as much to me as it did to a group of people talking.”
Does it concern you that the players you represent are employed, led and trained by people who might think like Gruden?
“There is nothing that I have not shared with the players before. Maybe not in the context of racism, except when we were talking about Colin Kaepernick or social justice issues and when players were kneeling before the national anthem. I can be blamed for a lot of things, maybe not being blunt isn’t one of them. You’ve seen me in team meetings and I really don’t give up on the fact that the owners and this league (has) a history of dealing with players. It all lies in the concept that they are somehow less valuable than other people.
“And so, I think, look, where we can fix this – or start to fix it – is to realize that this is not an attack on football, or that it is not a threat to football. And as much as Quick we get it You acknowledge those issues are sexism and homophobia and misogyny are real issues that threaten the integrity of everything we do, you can build a place where football is great, but football has never been allowed to do those things. should not be tolerated, and our workplaces should never tolerate those things, and how we select political candidates should not be subject to any of those things. The beauty of football and the sanctity of the workplace so valuable and so demands that we all simply decide that neither football, nor workplace, nor Our churches or our schools – must tolerate anything that threatens its integrity.”
Some of the people defending Gruden were people of color, which may confuse how they didn’t see the harmful potential of his words. Was it confusing?
“Whether you’re a person of color or not, you should get it. If you’re a person of color with any job, not to say a job that has a profile, you deal with a constant duality. And that duality On the one hand, you are a person of color, or a woman or someone who finds yourself in a diverse situation where you are doing everything you can to meet the challenges of the job, knowing that there are people who are thinking about you and talking about you, or writing things about you.and you try your best not to be distracted, or worse, you know that the moment you get a grumpy miscellaneous The person is tagged as, he becomes the label, and it becomes a limit on how well you can perform in this diverse environment. The other side of the duality is simply the reality that you are one. There are diverse individuals and you shouldn’t get angry or manage all those emotions when other people aren’t told to do so.
“That’s duality. And you spend a lot of time being ping-pong between those dualities, from a personal point of view, and then there are times that force you to be ping-pong between the poles of those dualities. And when you see something like this, you’re reminded that for a lot of people, it doesn’t matter where you want to go to school, how well you did in school. How well done. Job. This…