The Wall Street Journal reports the email was sent during the 2011 NFL lockout. In a message to former Washington Football Team president Bruce Allen, Gruden wrote: “Dumboriss Smith has lips the size of michelin tires.”
Gruden apologized to the WSJ, saying he was “really sorry” but that he didn’t specifically recall writing it. “I was upset,” he said. “I used a horrible way of explaining it. I don’t think he’s dumb. I don’t think he’s a liar. I don’t have a racial bone in my body, and I’ve proven that for 58 years.”
In response to the report, Smith released a statement of his own. “This is a thick skin job for someone with dark skin, just like it always has been for many people who look like me and work in corporate America,” he said. “You know people are sometimes saying things behind your back that are racist just like you see people talk and write about you using thinly coded and racist language.”
Meanwhile, the NFL denounced Gruden’s comment in its own statement, saying that they’ll be reviewing the situation for potential disciplinary action.
“The email from Jon Gruden denigrating DeMaurice Smith is appalling, abhorrent and wholly contrary to the NFL’s values,” the NFL’s statement read. “We condemn the statement and regret any harm that its publication may inflict on Mr. Smith or anyone else.”