DeMaurice Smith, head of the NFLPA and the subject of a racist trope in Jon Gruden’s first leaked email, said on Tuesday night’s edition of HBO’s “Real Sports” that he was particularly bothered by the number of people of color with a platform who defended the former Raiders’ coach.
“It’s abhorrent to think that a group of people are on that email chain being comfortable saying that,” Smith said. “It’s equally abhorrent to me to see a group of people defend it, knowing that they live in this legacy of America’s past. They live in this hope of America’s future. We can’t be truly hopeful when those people continue to excuse or apologize for something.”
Smith said he was “hurt” by the comments, but not shocked because he wasn’t naive enough to believe those thoughts weren’t expressed in private conversations and communications.
Smith hopes there can be genuine change created from the situation, though he remains skeptical.
“There are certain people that have and have had a plantation mentality in this league,” he said. “I think it would be unfair to sweep everybody up in this. But— I guess my— my point is for the people in this league, and I’m talking primarily of ownership, who believe that this league should be something better— they’re going to have an opportunity to match actions to their words.
“And if they refuse to do that, my message to some of them that I’ve made and— and now the message to them publicly is, ‘Your refusal to step up to the plate and demand— an investigation or demand the release of— of any evidence of— impropriety will speak volumes about whether you indeed— believe in this— in this racist mentality or this plantation mentality or— or even worse, whether you believe that the National Football League can be a better part of itself.’”