INDIANAPOLIS—Clueless and mean-spirited white guys found themselves a new poster boy this week.
Jon Gruden resigned as the head coach of the NFL’s Las Vegas Raiders. Gruden left his job after The New York Times reported he had sent a series of bigoted emails that attacked league officials, players, politicians and others in scurrilous terms.
“I have resigned as Head Coach of the Las Vegas Raiders,” Gruden said on Twitter. “I love the Raiders and do not want to be a distraction. Thank you to all the players, coaches, staff, and fans of Raider Nation. I’m sorry, I never meant to hurt anyone.”
Of course he meant the language to be hurtful.
He just never intended to be caught or be held accountable for his cruelty.
Gruden’s assaults on basic decency were widespread. He attacked a players’ representative with a nasty racist image. He used one of the ugliest anti-gay slurs around to demean NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and said the league shouldn’t allow gay players to compete. He used an off-color word relating to a part of the female anatomy to describe people with whom he disagreed, including the current president of the United States.
If he didn’t know that language was offensive to many, many people, then he’s a moron.
And Gruden has made it clear through the years that he’s no dummy.
He knew he was saying things that were racist, homophobic, misogynistic and rotten.
He just didn’t care.
Until he got caught and it cost him something.
In that way, Gruden is like so many other blowhards—a certain former president of the United States comes to mind—in this shabby, disagreeable age.
They swagger around, insulting and demeaning everyone who threatens them in any way, and then, when they’re called on it, they try to dismiss their callous disregard for others by saying they didn’t mean any harm. The problem, they always contend, is that other people are just too sensitive.
Or that they are “victims” of political correctness and their right to speak freely is being violated.
What blowhard America calls “political correctness” goes by another label in most of America.
Most of us were raised not to say unkind things if we can help it. Most of us were taught that we shouldn’t demean other people based on their race, their gender, their religion or their sexual orientation.
To do so isn’t tough or manly.
It’s just wrong.
And no one is denying Gruden the right to speak his narrow little mind. He can continue to send out ugly emails to anyone he wants.
He’s got that right.
The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees it.
But it also guarantees the same rights to the people Gruden insulted and may insult in the future. When he says things that they don’t like, they have the right to speak up and tell him he’s full of it.
Similarly, the NFL owners can choose not to associate themselves with his bigotry. They too have that right.
That’s the thing that so many members of blowhard America—including, again, a certain former president of the United States—just can’t seem to grasp. They somehow seem to think that free speech means a free pass.
They’re allowed to say whatever they want, regardless of how callous and ill-intended, but no one ever should be permitted to tell them that they’re just nasty little twits.
But that’s not the way it works.
Free speech is free for all.
And saying what you think doesn’t mean you never will be held accountable for what you’ve said.
That’s what happened here.
Jon Gruden said what he thought, nasty as his thoughts were.
Now he’s being held accountable for what he said.
That’s the way things are supposed to work.