NFL

Julian Edelman: Jon Gruden’s comments ‘just not acceptable’

Edelman spoke out against emails Gruden sent to former Washington Football Team president Bruce Allen and others containing racist, homophobic and sexist language.

Jon Gruden Julian Edelman Patriots
Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden leaves after speaking during a news conference after an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears in Las Vegas, in this Sunday, Oct. 10. Gruden is out as coach of the Raiders after emails he sent before being hired in 2018 contained racist, homophobic and misogynistic comments. AP Photo/Rick Scuteri, File
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Former Patriots receiver Julian Edelman is no stranger to having tough conversations with people who aren’t the most open-minded.

He’s even notably reached out to athletes like DeSean Jackson and Meyers Leonard — both of whom made publicly anti-Semitic comments — to create a constructive dialogue based on learning and understanding one another.

But as far as now-ex-Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden goes, Edelman doesn’t think there’s much else that needs to be said.

The Patriots legend denounced recently uncovered emails Gruden sent to league executives and other figures containing homophobic, racist and sexist language while on “Inside The NFL” on Paramount+.

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“You know what? We’re trying to gain inclusivity in our league,” Edelman said. “We’ve been trying it with every form of background, sexuality, women — we have women coaches now, referees. And when you have a leader and one of the biggest faces in our league have stuff like this come out, I mean, was I surprised [that Gruden lost his job]? I wasn’t surprised because 70 percent of our team, our guys, are Black men. And when you have your head coach, the guy who’s supposed to set the example — and I’m not a cancel guy. I’m not a cancel culture guy. I’m all about the conversation. But if it keeps on coming out that there’s more and more and more, I think it’s just not acceptable.”

Gruden drew the ire of the sports community when an investigation into the Washington Football Team revealed correspondence between the coach and then-Washington president Allen while Gruden was an employee at ESPN.

In those emails, Gruden, among other things, used a racist trope to describe NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith, decried the growing prevalence of women NFL referees and used homophobic language to describe Smith, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Michael Sam, the first openly gay player to be drafted into the NFL.

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Though the first emails focusing on the coach’s comments against Goodell and Smith are from 2011, other leaked emails containing graphic content and language reportedly range up to 2018, when Gruden was hired by the Raiders to a 10-year, $100-million contract to coach the team.

Edelman explained that his goal in choosing to initiate conversations with Jackson and Leonard after their offensive comments was to help educate them.

“I didn’t think that they understood what they said would make the impact and hurt as many people as it did,” he said. “It was to allow people to know, hey, I don’t know everything about you, you don’t know everything about me. And that could hurt my feelings, this could hurt your feelings — why don’t we have a conversation so we all can grow?”

On the other hand, the receiver said, there’s no reason to think Gruden was ignorant of why his comments would be hurtful to others

“I don’t know Jon Gruden personally, I’ve never met him,” Edelman acknowledged. “But it’s a different situation here to think that what he said, he didn’t know that what he was saying would offend someone.”

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Edelman joins several current NFL players, like Aaron Rodgers, and former players, like Patriots fan-favorite Willie McGinest, in condemning Gruden’s words.

“I’m not going to sit here and act naive like this doesn’t exist not only in locker rooms or private meeting rooms or board rooms, private clubs…whatever it is. This exists,” McGinest said on NFL Network. “The thing that happened here is it got exposed. It got out.

“When you come from where I come from…you’re used to it. And sometimes you become immune to it, which doesn’t mean it’s right. It just means you’re not surprised by it. I wasn’t shocked. I wasn’t surprised. I know it exists.”

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