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Skechers, Buccaneers sever ties with Jon Gruden after emails

A shoe and apparel company and his former team severed ties with Jon Gruden on Tuesday after a series of his controversial emails were made public on Monday.

Skechers said Tuesday it was terminating its relationship with the former Raiders coach who announced his resignation Monday after news of additional emails he wrote that included racist, misogynistic and anti-gay remarks surfaced.

Also Tuesday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers said despite leading the team to a victory in Super Bowl XXXVII, the NFL franchise is removing Gruden from its Ring of Honor at Raymond James Stadium.

“The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have advocated for purposeful change in the areas of race relations, gender equality, diversity and inclusion for many years,” the team said in a statement. “While we acknowledge Jon Gruden’s contributions on the field, his actions go against our core values as an organization.”

Jennifer Clay, Skechers vice-president of corporate communications and marketing, said in a statement: “Upon learning of these developments, we immediately terminated Mr. Gruden’s endorsement contract and our affiliation with him.

“Skechers believes in equality, fostering tolerance and understanding for all people … and why we have a zero tolerance policy for such behavior (as Gruden’s) within our business.”

The controversy that cost Gruden his coaching job erupted Friday when the Wall Street Journal published derogatory comments the former coach made about DeMaurice Smith, the NFL Players Association executive director, that used a racial trope.

The email, stemming from a hostile workforce investigation of the Washington Football Team by the NFL, was 10 years old and occurred when Gruden was between coaching jobs and working for ESPN.

Smith’s reaction on Tuesday to Gruden’s resignation was tempered, even as the NFLPA called for all of the 650,000 emails collected in the probe to be released.

“The email from Jon Gruden — and some of the reaction to it — confirms that the fight against racism, racist tropes and intolerance is not over,” Smith said in a statement that was released via Twitter. “This is not about an email as much as it is about a pervasive belief by some that people who look like me can be treated as less.”

Most former Raiders were quiet about Gruden’s resignation and the controversy over his emails on social media Tuesday. But Raymond Chester was passionate in his rebuke of the former Raiders coach.

“I am appalled at the conduct and from what we have learned from others about Gruden’s behavior,” said the former four-time Pro Bowl tight end who had two stints with the Raiders spanning 1970 to ‘81. “If anything we’re most proud of, it’s the Raiders’ worldwide reputation for being open to hiring females and minorities and people who are just people.

“That’s been the standard of the Raiders for a long time, and I’m appalled to hear and learn some of things I’ve learned. I totally support Mark Davis in his decision to (force Gruden’s resignation).”

Vann McElroy, a member of the Raiders’ Super Bowl XVIII championship team and a two-time Pro Bowl safety, initially declined to comment on Gruden.

“It’s a complicated deal, and I think all of us are unworthy at times,” McElroy said about Gruden’s inflammatory emails and whether he needed to resign. “But if you have a team that’s going to be divided and it’s just going to create problems, then that’s what needs to happen.”

McElroy, like Chester, noted the Raiders’ reputation as a big, happy and accepting family cultivated by franchise patriarch Al Davis.

“Look at me and what I looked like, and I was drafted to the Soul Patrol,” McElroy, who is white, said in invoking the nickname of the Raiders’ secondary once headed by Black stalwarts Willie Brown, Jack Tatum and George Atkinson.

But at least one of Gruden’s former NFL colleagues said he was standing by the embattled ex-coach.

“He’s done a lot of great things for the National Football League and ESPN alike,” Jay Gruden, the former Washington Football Team coach, told Team 980 in Washington in referencing his brother’s coaching accomplishments and TV work.

“I’ll let him handle his business. I’m always there for support, like he was always here for my support when I needed it in a time of crisis.”

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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