Sometimes when we look at professional sportspeople or coaches, we often forget that they are real, normal people. They sleep just like we do. They need to eat and drink just like us. They even need to use the toilet on a regular basis. This needs to be remembered, as sometimes we, the ordinary folk, assume them to be on a higher level, almost infallible and to be judged by different standards. This, quite simply, is not the case.
Unfortunately, in the world of sport, as in the real world, there are plenty of people out there whose opinions and views are outdated and incredibly disrespectful to large members of society. Certain comments or ‘jokes’ that might have been acceptable 20 or 30 years ago no longer are, and people who continue to hold these views and spread their nonsense need to be held to account.
We’ve seen this in the world of the NFL very recently. At the beginning of October, the Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden announced he was stepping down from his post, following the unearthing of some emails that he sent, that were homophobic, racist and misogynistic. His statement at the time read ‘I love the Raiders and do not want to be a distraction...Thank you to all the players, coaches, staff and fans of Raider Nation. I’m sorry, I never meant to hurt anyone.’
The beginning of the season had been very good for the Raiders and Gruden, as they won their opening 3 games. In fact, when fans were searching for NFL odds on their sports betting apps, the Raiders were becoming an increasingly popular pick after their impressive start. However, they have since lost two and won once in their following 3 games, so aren’t such a popular pick anymore.
Gruden left the Raiders in a cloud of shame after these emails were leaked, possibly damaging his reputation beyond repair. It is not just the Raiders fans who are disappointed, as supporters of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers also held Gruden close to their hearts. Let’s look into why that is.
Following time spent as an offensive coordinator at the Green Bay Packers and the Philadelphia Eagles, Gruden landed his first Head coach position at the Oakland Raiders. He spent 3 seasons there between 1998 and 2001, before moving to Florida to take over as Head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
At the time of his appointment, the Buccs had never made it to a Super Bowl final, let alone won it. So his task was a simple one; make the Buccaneers a winning team. Some pundits expected Gruden to be successful, but few would have predicted he would take Tampa to the Super Bowl inside the first year of his appointment. His side was the number one ranked defence, so had proved very difficult to get past.
Strangely enough, it was his former (and also future) side the Raiders who faced off against Gruden and the Buccaneers in Super Bowl XXXVII, hosted at the Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego on the 26th of January 2003. The game is nicknamed ‘Gruden Bowl’ given his work with both sides The Raiders were the strong favourites going into the game, but could not break down the Buccaneers’ defence frequently enough to get points on the board. Tampa took control in the 2nd quarter, and never looked back, winning the game 48-21.
Gruden would remain in charge of the Buccaneers until 2008. While they made the playoffs on several occasions, they were never able to achieve another Super Bowl success. That didn’t truly matter to the Buc’s fans, as they still loved Gruden for bringing them their first-ever Super Bowl title.
In 2017, Gruden was awarded the accolade of being placed in the Ring of Honor at the Raymond James Stadium, for his achievements with the team. Only two other Head coaches had been received this honour, which shows how highly Gruden was thought of.
Only days after the emails Gruden had sent were leaked to the press, the Buccaneers released a statement saying that the former Head coach would immediately be removed from their Ring of Honor. Their statement read -
“The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have advocated for purposeful change in the area of race relations, gender equality, diversity and inclusion for many years. While we acknowledge Jon Gruden’s contributions on the field, his actions go against our core values...therefore, he will no longer continue to be a member of the Buccaneers Ring of Honor.”
It will be hard for Buc’s fans to forget what he achieved with their team, but thankfully most will agree that his horrible comments do not have any place in our society, so agree with the stance of the team to no longer celebrate Gruden in the Ring of Honor.