Gruden resigned on Monday after reports emerged of him using homophobic, racist and misogynistic language in emails while he worked as an ESPN analyst.
Russell, who came out as bisexual in 2019 and who played for the Dallas Cowboys and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, told CNN’s New Day that he was heartbroken when he heard about the emails and said resignation was the bare minimum the league should accept.
“I don’t think it’s enough, I think it’s reactive of the investigation of what is happening,” Russell said Tuesday.
“I think the next step that the league needs to take is being proactive in making sure that the coaches that they hire, the players that they draft, the organization that they form are being inclusive, are being supportive and are held to that standard not when things come to light but all the time.
“That’s accountability, doing the right thing when no one is looking. The integrity level is what is being challenged here.”
Critics had called for Gruden, who has coached the Raiders since the beginning of the 2018 season, to be fired since The Wall Street Journal reported he used racially insensitive language to describe NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith in a 2011 email.
On Monday, the New York Times reported it reviewed more emails and found Gruden denounced women being employed as on-field officials, a team drafting an openly gay player and the tolerance for national anthem protesters.
The Times said the emails were sent to Bruce Allen, the former president of the Washington Football Team, over a seven-year period, causing many to question why he was allowed to stay in his role for so long. Allen was fired by the organization in December 2019.
On Friday, an NFL spokesperson said the email reported in the Wall Street Journal was unearthed as part of an NFL review of workplace misconduct at the Washington Football Team that took place this summer.
CNN has reached out again to Gruden, the NFL and the Raiders for comment.
‘That’s not acceptable’
“Jon Gruden wasn’t sending those emails to himself, there were other people that knew about it,” Russell added.
“There were other people that were involved across the league and this went unchecked for years so no, resigning is not accountability, it’s not enough — it’s something reactive.”
The Raiders released a statement in which Gruden announced his resignation, saying: “I’m sorry, I never meant to hurt anyone.”
The statement has been criticized for not addressing all the topics that Gruden had covered in the emails.
“To say he didn’t mean to hurt anyone, that’s not acceptable,” Russell said.
“You know, in this day and age, what those words mean, what that says to your character, what that says to your organization and what that will do to your legacy.
“You hurt people, you hurt literally everyone, and there is no statement that you can put out that will take that back.”
‘Uncover the real thoughts of Jon Gruden’
NFL reporter Ian Rapoport says Gruden had no other option but to resign as head coach, saying he had lost his credibility within the Raiders locker room, especially given that Carl Nassib — who became the first active NFL player in league history to announce that he is gay earlier this year — plays for the team.
“How would Jon Gruden, after sending that homophobic email, with players knowing that’s what he really thinks, how would he stand up in the middle of the room and lead this group of men with several people in that locker room knowing that, privately, he makes fun of them or is against them?” Rapoport said.
“It could not work. That partially explains why Jon Gruden resigned to owner Mark Davis and then to his staff last night.”
Rapoport says thousands of emails from the investigation have yet to be made public and is unsure who else could be caught up in a similar situation.
“The report has not been made public. Most of these emails have not been made public,” he said.
“Are they going to be or are we going to find out the secret contents of leaders’ emails that follow this pattern?”
Given the work the league has done to be more inclusive in recent years, Rapoport says many in the community are just relieved Gruden has decided to resign from his role.
“This is a man, who publicly was one thing — he seemed to be a kind of jovial, kooky leader — these emails obviously uncover the real thoughts of Jon Gruden,” he said.
“I think there are a lot of people wondering — players, executives of color, many whom I spoke to last night, coaches of color, or just humans — just wondering if this person is going to get what he deserves.
“Is there going to be accountability? Are you just allowed to do this?
“I think when John Gurden resigned, several of the people I spoke with simply said, ‘OK good, this is what it should be.'”
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