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Saturday, October 16, 2021

Jon Gruden emails: Ex-NFL coach Jeff Fisher responds to allegations stemming from scandal

Jon Gruden is officially out of the league after resigning as head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders on Monday night, in the wake of an email scandal that revealed conversations he held with former Washington Football Team executive Bruce Allen that included years of racist, homophobic and misogynistic language — in 2010 and beyond. The revelations and subsequent consequence sent shockwaves throughout the league, and although there continues to be refusal to release the entirety of their findings that included Gruden’s emails, there are still some who are catching strays from the fallout, one such person being Jeff Fisher.

Fisher, former head coach of both the Tennessee Titans (previously the Houston Oilers) and the Los Angeles Rams (when they were in St. Louis), was accused by Gruden of succumbing to pressure by the league’s front office to draft Michael Sam, the first openly gay player to ever enter an NFL Draft. Gruden referred to Sam as a homophobic slur and wrote that the NFL should’ve never “pressured” Fisher into selecting Sam.

On Tuesday, Fisher issued a reply to the allegations.

“Michael Sam was the SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Year in 2013, and we selected him in the 2014 NFL Draft based upon his defensive production and pass rushing skill set on the field,” wrote Fisher, via Twitter. “As a head coach for over 20 years, we drafted or didn’t draft, players based on a variety of qualities. Their sexual orientation would never — and should never — play a part in the decision-making process. I continue to support Michael, and his decision to come out as the first draft-eligible openly gay player in the league. It took courage to serve as a role model for those competitive football players who may also happen to be gay. 

“Lastly, the NFL never encouraged or discouraged me regarding selection of a potential prospect.”

Also a First-Team All SEC talent in 2013, Sam drew the interest of many NFL teams ahead of the draft in 2014, and spent time with both the Rams and the Dallas Cowboys in his NFL career. Ironically, Gruden later found himself coaching a Raiders team with Carl Nassib on its roster, the league’s first active player to ever come out as gay, and also the first-ever openly gay player to take the field in game (Sam’s career was spent on practice squads for both the Rams and Cowboys). Gruden publicly praised Nassib for his decision this past June, during Pride Month, but the skeletons in Gruden’s closet reveal a much darker view of gay individuals.

Fisher wasn’t the only target of Gruden’s and, as with NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith — who was the victim of a racist trope from Gruden in 2010 — he’s opted to not sit idly by and to instead respond to the attack. Gruden and the Raiders divorce with six years left on his historic 10-year deal, and the chances of him ever working in the league again are near zero.

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