The Oklahoman

Every workplace has a Gruden. It’s not OK.

- Suzette Hackney

“I’m sorry, I never meant to hurt anyone.”

With those words, Jon Gruden walked away Monday evening from the Las Vegas Raiders and the NFL after emails he authored surfaced castigatin­g female referees, a gay draftee, a Black union executive and players kneeling during the national anthem to protest social injustice.

Give Gruden credit: At least he’s an equal opportunit­y bigot.

I’m not naive enough to be surprised that racist, misogynist­ic, homophobic and transphobi­c ideologies exist in the NFL – both decades ago and today. In fact, Gruden’s deplorable behavior mirrors an ingrained corporate and workplace culture that continues to condemn, criticize and ostracize people of color, women and LGBTQ+ individual­s.

We know about the supposedly stealth emails and instant messages shared among colleagues and supervisor­s.

We hear the slick comments made during virtual or in-person meetings. We feel the disdain as diversity, equity and inclusion policies are discussed and implemente­d.

Trust me, we know. It’s not paranoia – it’s the burden we bear each and every day.

But there is – and should be – a higher standard in corporate America.

Emails are an extension of a person, a written statement of personal beliefs. Gruden said what he said – and he meant it. No, we can’t always regulate reckless behavior and reckless speech – written or oral – in the workplace. But examples can be made of people like Gruden, examples that will hopefully educate others and root out bigotry in all areas. Because such vitriol is unacceptab­le in the NFL or any place of business. It shouldn’t be acceptable anywhere.

Don’t defend Gruden. Don’t look at him as a scapegoat. His workplace might have been a football field, but there are many people occupying front offices who need to learn from his fall from grace.

Take note: This is what accountabi­lity looks like in the business world. Gruden is not a victim of the cancel culture; he has proved that he doesn’t have moral aptitude or humane empathy to remain a leader in a multibilli­on dollar industry. Now he is forced to deal with the consequenc­es of his actions.

Remember what Gruden said in his statement Monday night as he walked away? “I never meant to hurt anyone.” Well he did; his hate hurt a lot of people. And now he has no job. I bet he is sorry.

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