Gruden Case Highlights the Hypocrisy of NFL Cancel Culture

CLAY: This Jon Gruden story, one of my big theories and ideas has been that over the last decade — and I’m curious if you agree with me — we have moved primarily from punishing actions to punishing words instead. And I think that’s directly correlated with the rise of social media which — at least in the Twittersphere where the Blue Check Brigade hangs out — makes outwards a premium.

And that was certainly the case with Donald Trump, where every time he sent a tweet people would run around like they were on fire reacting to his tweet, his words. And so I want to ask you this question: There are emails from Jon Gruden that are inappropriate, that are allegedly homophobic, racist, sexist…

If you don’t this story, they were investigating the formerly named Washington Redskins football team for issues related to the management, how they treated cheerleaders, how they treated different employees. And so, 650,000 emails were uncovered as a part of this discovery process. And Jon Gruden was found to have used gay slurs in emails and to have allegedly used racist language to describe a black NFL players association.

He called the commissioner of the NFL, Roger Goodell, a gay slur in an email. All of this came out through discovery, not because Jon Gruden was being investigated, and he resigned late last night as the head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders. Jon Gruden is formerly a Monday Night Football analyst — one of, Buck, probably the five or six people that is most famous in the NFL for being a coach and a prognosticator, not just one or the other.

So this is a big time, luminescent star in the NFL landscape. And I was thinking… I’ve been making this argument, but I’m curious what you think about it. Jon Gruden gets a DUI or two DUIs; is arrested for domestic assault, potentially. I think he might keep his job with no issues.

BUCK: Yes. Isn’t that the standard?

CLAY: The emails? That’s the standard we’ve set on words versus actions, right?

BUCK: Yeah, there are people in the NFL… You know a lot more about some of the backgrounds of the players than I do. But people have stabbed individuals, they have beaten wives and girlfriends, they have engaged in felonious conduct, and they keep their jobs. And it seems to me that in this instance… First of all, what is it I saw, a $100 million contract over 10 years for Gruden, the coach of the Raiders?

CLAY: That’s right. That’s not chicken feed.

BUCK: Yeah. That’s a lot of money to throw at somebody. And for him to lose his job based on things that he said — or I should say wrote — that he believed to be private? Now, some of those things were obviously in very bad —

CLAY: Up to, by the way, Buck, a decade ago. Some of those emails as far back as a decade ago.

BUCK: Some of them were obviously in very bad taste. Also, language has evolved, depending on what we’re talking about here. I believe there were some words in there that were considered misogynistic. I think people would probably know that football players certainly have used that word to describe each other and stuff.

CLAY: (laughing) Yes.

BUCK: So there’s different, I think, gradations of seriousness, of what the different terms used here are. But what really is… So the victory is supposed to be what? What is the example we’re supposed to take? If you ever write or text anything to anyone that is un-PC — or over the line, by the way, and some of this stuff is clearly over the line. But if you ever do that and it 10 years later comes out, you lose your job, you get fired?

CLAY: I think that’s the question. That’s an interesting question. Right? And the NFL has got a inconsistent standard here, Buck, because they just brought in a series of rappers to perform at this year’s Super Bowl show, and every single rapper that will be performing, among them I think Eminem, Dr. Dre, Snoop. I like a lot of these guys, right? I may be a rarity in our audience in that. I don’t know if you like them. I particularly liked 1990s-era rap, early 2000s. Did you listen? Were you like an Eminem fan?

BUCK: I tell people this. In New York City… I went to Catholic school in New York City. Every dance you went to, every school dance from 1996 to 2000 it was Biggie, Nas, Tupac, Jay-Z, constantly. This was the soundtrack of life in cities in those mid- to late nineties. That’s what everybody was listening to.

CLAY: So I liked all that music, like, I understand people out there like, I hate rap music, like I understand. Everybody doesn’t like the same music. I’m like you, Buck. I grew up with it all. So I think this all ties in so interestingly to the modern cancel culture and how it is applied because every one of those rappers — certainly a decade ago, and many of them more recently than a decade ago — have flagrantly homophobic lyrics, have flagrantly misogynistic lyrics inside of their rap songs.

Yet the NFL is going to put them on their signature event in front of over a hundred million people and say, “Hey, you are as good of an entertainer as there is; we’re giving you the NFL stamp of approval,” which is what the Super Bowl is, right, when you get the opportunity to perform. So how does the NFL…? This is the question that I think media, Buck, if they were doing their job, if they were actually speaking truth to power.

The commissioner of the NFL, Roger Goodell, would be asked, “Why is it not allowable for Jon Gruden to coach in your league because he used inappropriate language up to a decade ago, but it’s okay for you to bring in many rappers who are going to perform with the imprimatur of the NFL in front of a hundred million people?” And, by the way, unlike Gruden, who whether you agree or disagree with what he said, he was saying it privately in an email. These rap lyrics are broadcast worldwide for everybody to hear in a public spectacle.

BUCK: Clay?

CLAY: So I think that’s a really interesting question.

BUCK: Well, we know how it’s gonna play out. It’s a question that we know the answer to. The answer is that Gruden is toast, and that other people will get away with what they said in the past.

CLAY: The standards of cancel culture aren’t evenly applied in any stretch of the imagination.

BUCK: Right. What we need to understand, though, or, rather, what we need to have a fuller understanding of, I think, is that this is part of cancel culture. This is actually not… This isn’t something that they run away from. They believe in different standards for different people because they believe in —

CLAY: Identity politics in general.

BUCK: — hierarchies of power. And so because there are people who inherently fall somewhere in the hierarchy based upon immutable characteristics or however it is that they set up what is essentially a either gender or racial Marxism or comes from a Marxist urge, that’s how they view it. So they actually view double standards as what they’re trying to accomplish.

We say, “Hold on. This is unfair.” They say, “Well, of course! Of course it’s unfair — and we have the power,” we being the leftists in this case, “to institute it as we see fit.” So while Gruden… I will say, you gotta know. You’re a guy at that kind of high profile — and I know you say some of this was ten years ago. Put this stuff in an email? You write it down, and you never know.

CLAY: I get it. Look, Buck, the other thing I would say is right now to your point on players who are eligible. Deshaun Watson, who is a quarterback for the Houston Texans, has been accused of sexual assault by 24 different women — 24! Not one, not two, 24. He’s the eligible to play right now in the NFL.

He’s accepting and getting his full salary and Jon Gruden now is not eligible to coach. One guy has been accused of sexually assaulting 24 different women. The other guy was a former coach of the Oakland Raiders. One sent an email. The other one has some pretty significant accusations out there.

BUCK: When wokeness is involved, there’s no presumption of innocence, as you know. That’s how they do it. That’s always the way the left does it.

CLAY: The question I have for you going forward and this is probably a good question we can have some people weigh in on — 1-800-282-2882 — should there be a statute of limitations in general on how far back you can go to decide to try to cancel someone? Right? When I see that it’s an 11-year-old or 10-year-old email, I say, “What is the standard for cancellation?”

If we were just trying to be fair, right, and you were gonna say, “Okay. Society evolves. People evolve. Everything else,” wouldn’t most people think it was crazy that a 10-year-old email would cost you your job?

BUCK: You’re asking a movement and an ideology to be reasonable that is rooted in the rejection of reason and facts and logic, right?

CLAY: I’m just saying for our purposes, for normal people. There are statutes of limitation on lawsuits, right, if you are accusing someone of — I don’t know — a civil violation. It might be two years, it might be three years, whatever it is, because things change and because memories fade and everything else and we don’t think people should be held hostage forever.

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