When Shaad Khan determined to become the first member of an ethnic minority to own an NFL team more than a decade ago, the Pakistani-American heard the outcry.
“The guess was, ‘You’ll never get approved, because you’re not white,'” Khan, the owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars, told the Associated Press in a telephone interview this week.
His attempt to buy a 60% stake in a club failed, Khan said, so “the narrative that people had given me prevailed.”
Intrepid – and, he says, encouraged by Commissioner Roger Goodell – Khan went ahead and soon reached an agreement to buy the Jaguars. “Unanimously approved,” Khan said. “Conjecture and what was going on – and reality – fell apart.”
Current and former players and others around the league have differing opinions about an important question that arose in light of racism, homosexuality and anti-feminist views in an email written by John Gruden. From 2011-18, when he was an ESPN analyst in between coaching jobs, to then-Washington club executive Bruce Allen: How pervasive are such attitudes around the game these days?
This has certainly been a topic of conversation in the locker room.
“I’m not surprised that those ideas exist. … I guess I was a little surprised by that comfort level sending someone that kind of email. I think you’re pretty sure they’re not offended by it Wouldn’t be surprised by it or saying anything to you about the nature of those emails,” said Corey Peters, an Arizona Cardinals defensive lineman in his 11th year in the NFL. “But I think it’s good for the league to come out, and hold people accountable for the things they say, even in private.”
Gruden resigned as coach of the Las Vegas Raiders on Monday night, following messages he wrote in The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times to humiliate Goodell, union chief Demoris Smith and others. In which offensive terms were used to refer to blacks, homosexuals and women.
Some saw Gruden’s words as a sign of a behind-the-scenes culture that could persist in an industry where nearly 70% of players are black while more than 80% are head coaches (27 out of 32) and general managers (27 out of 32). Also 27 out of 32 ) are white – and all are men.
Among the major owners, only Khan and Kim Pegula of Buffalo are members of the minorities.
“The big issues aren’t unique to the NFL, but I think they are stark in the NFL: Who’s in a position of power? And who’s making the decisions? When that’s just one group, especially the privileged, who dominant group, they’re potentially going to have skewed judgments and skewed world views,” said Diane Goodman, an equity advisor.
“It’s easy to point to Gruden and go, ‘Oh, isn’t that awesome?’ and ‘Look at the terrible things he did.’ But it doesn’t look at the larger culture that people were participating with. People were allowing these emails to exist. It’s really about the whole culture and the meaning, that I’m sure people cultivated is, to feel like, ‘I can say these things and they are at best, appreciated and reciprocated, or at worst, people may not appreciate them but nothing is going to happen.’ And it’s about privilege and authority,” Goodman said. “There’s this notion that ‘I can say these things to another white person who’s going to think they’re okay.’
Some, like Seahawks six-time All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner or Hall of Fame safety Brian Dawkins, found the entire episode more reflective of country than the NFL.
Dawkins said, “I hate to say it that way, but that’s just the world we live in. That’s America, whose first two seasons in Philadelphia coincided with Gruden’s last two as Eagles offensive coordinator.” “I believe that if[email had known]in 2011, then perhaps the response would not have been as severe as it is now. I think we’re in that environment where we are, with the things we’ve gone through, maybe three years of social injustice and all those things, a lot of people are waking up to something that’s been normal for a very long time. “
Wagner said: “There are people out there who speak like that, who have mindsets that haven’t evolved. It’s not just football, it’s not just NFL ownership or coaches or anything like that.”
Denver Broncos safety Justin Simmons took the point that representation matters: “You get different backgrounds, you get different opinions.”
He also thinks that the workplace culture of his job is improving.
“Progress has been made. I won’t go into details about whether it’s good enough,” Simmons, who entered the NFL in 2016, said. are. , it must be positive, right?”
Former defensive end Mike Flores echoes sentiments found in emails that were gathered during an investigation into sexual harassment and other workplace misconduct at the Washington football team., only do not represent a person’s mindset.
“I know how people talk and joke in the locker room. Most people in the NFL would be heavily scrutinized if the ‘politically correct cops’ checked everyone’s emails,” said Flores — who played college football in Louisville with Gruden’s brother, Jay, five with the Eagles, 49ers and Washington. Before spending the season – said in a phone interview.
Hugh Douglas, a defensive end with the Jets, Eagles and Jaguars from 1995-2004, told the AP that black athletes are “conditioned” to hear “racial stuff” and speculated that owners would not want their emails to be public.
but Pat Hanlon, the senior VP of communications for the New York Giants tweeted, “35 years in the league. Never heard that language written or spoken. I’m not gullible. Sure it’s been there.” He wrote in a second tweet. “It’s not common”.
The reign of NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers shows a generational gap between the people in charge and those who take the field.
“I can say with real honesty and pride that I don’t feel like there is an opinion that is shared by the players. I feel like, in the locker room, it’s a close group of people. The Packers quarterback said on The Pat McAfee Show, and we don’t treat people any differently based on the way they talk, where they’re from, what they like, how they look..
“I know probably (Gruden) have similar opinions, but I think they are few and far between. I really do,” Rodgers said. “I think today’s player and coach is a more empathetic He is an advanced, progressive, loving, connected person. … hopefully we can all, as a league, learn from this and move on and hopefully it will notice people who have some similar opinions, like, ‘Hey, man, it’s going to grow. And there is time to grow and change and connect. ‘”
Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores, who is Black, was among those to echo that sentiment.
“From my point of view, what I love about sport is that it brings people together. It really brings people from all walks of life together,” Flores said. Hate to see anything that brings division.”
Speaking about what happened to Gruden, specifically, Khan of Jacksonville said, “Obviously, these emails are disturbing,” and quickly added: “My personal experience hasn’t been like that.”
Ever since Khan agreed to buy the Jaguars in 2011, he has seen a change in the culture of the league, especially with regard to social justice causes.
“One hundred percent, I think the league is at the fore,” he said, “and they’re going to do more.”
AP Pro Football Writers Dave Campbell, Schuyler Dixon, Josh Dubo, Mark Long, Rob Maddy, Ernie Stapleton, Teresa M. Walker, Dennis Wassack Jr. and Barry Wilner, and AP Sportswriters Greg Beacham, Tim Booth, David Brandt, Tom Canavan, Larry Ledge, Steve Megarzy, Tim Reynolds and Tom Withers contributed to this report.
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