Gruden emails prove Kaepernick right

Colin Kaepernick's peaceful protest has always been about injustice. Jon Gruden vindicated the former NFL quarterback's fight against racist coaches, cops and other authority figures when Gruden's racist, misogynistic and homophobic emails dating back to 2011 were unearthed.

When people across the United States took the stance that standing for a flag was more important than the values behind that flag, it made no sense to me. They refused to empathize with the oppressed, instead fixating the conversation on a material object and a song that was penned by a slave owner.

The outrage over the “disrespect” of America that came from Black NFL players kneeling during the National Anthem showed a complete misunderstanding of peaceful protest on the largest sports stage. The silent protests staged by Colin Kaepernick and others beginning in 2016 escalated the national conversation, it just wasn’t about the topics which were being protested.

Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old EMT, was shot and killed by Louisville, Kentucky, police while sleeping in her bed in 2020. Eric Garner was choked to death in broad daylight by the NYPD for selling loose cigarettes in 2014. Philando Castile, a St. Paul, Minnesota, Public Schools employee, was killed in 2016 while obeying a police officer’s orders to present his wallet — shot five times next to his girlfriend and her 4-year-old daughter.

Americans were often less outraged by these heinous acts, and more outraged by Black football players peacefully attempting to bring attention to them. Colin Kaepernick began kneeling on the advice of a former Green Beret, Nate Boyer, who told the NFC Champion quarterback that kneeling before the flag would be a better form of protest than sitting. Boyer joined Kaepernick on the sideline, standing beside the San Francisco 49ers quarterback as he knelt.

I grew tired of trying to justify why Kaepernick's fight against oppression was important to those around me who deemed it unnecessary or disrespectful. Thankfully, Jon Gruden did that for me when the racist, homophobic and misogynistic emails the Super Bowl winning coach consistently sent over the last decade were unearthed. Gruden resigned as head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders Monday, Oct. 11.

The emails were first exposed in two separate reports by the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times that were published on Oct. 8 and Oct. 11, respectively.

In these emails, Gruden called for the firing of NFL players who kneeled in protest of police killing unarmed black men and women nationwide. Seventy percent of the NFL roster is made up of Black men.

Gruden’s rhetorical reign of hate didn’t stop at racism. He referred to league brass trying to limit concussions — which have been linked to chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a traumatic brain disease — as “pussies.” Gruden exchanged emails with former Washington Football Team President, Bruce Allen, which included topless photos of NFL cheerleaders. Gruden shamed the participation of gay men in the NFL, referring to them as queers and using the “F” word to describe them in at least one instance. 

This is a man in power. A white man with a 10-year, $100 million contract. Gruden embodies the systems of oppression that Colin Kaepernick was kneeling to bring attention to. Gruden’s hateful correspondence highlights widespread racism that has never ended in America, despite the civil rights movement of the 1960s, which is more recent than many would like to admit.

Gruden didn’t hate players kneeling during the National Anthem, he hated players holding power in their status as Black professional athletes. He hated women having equal opportunities as men in the sports industry. He hated the idea of gay athletes playing alongside their heterosexual counterparts. And I’m certain he hates that his seemingly invincible position as a famous and beloved coach could be threatened by his own “locker room” talk.

The important takeaway from this? It’s who Gruden is. You are the sum of your choices and this man chose to use oppressive language for over 10 years. It wasn’t a slip of the tongue, it was a lifestyle.

Two common excuses are made for ridiculing Kaepernick and supporting Gruden.

Many detractors point to Black-on-Black crime and gang violence to discredit Kaepernick’s awareness efforts surrounding police brutality. They are two separate issues, both troubling, yet completely unrelated.

Gruden’s supporters have also noted that by digging through every NFL coach's past emails, we’d likely see similar behavior, thus Gruden deserves to keep his job rather than be singled out.

I’d argue that this means many coaches should be exposed and fired, not that Gruden should stay.

I stand for the National Anthem, but I support those who don’t. I also understand the reasons why they don’t. Colin Kaepernick told me. Jon Gruden showed me.

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