Compared to any previous years, society in 2021 feels very accepting and welcoming to all kinds of people no matter gender, sexuality, race, religion and so on. Unfortunately for the Las Vegas Raiders NFL team , their head coach has not changed with the times. Earlier this month, on October 11th, the head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders, Jon Gruden, resigned from his position with the team after emails he sent spanning from 2011-2018 contained the use of racist, misogynistic, and homophobic terms. Gruden was four years into his 10-year contract with the Raiders.
This is extremely disheartening, considering the recent milestones and social justice movements the NFL has been a part of in recent years. In 2014, Michael Sam was the first openly gay player to be drafted to the NFL. Gruden claimed the team that drafted him was pressured into drafting him simply because he is gay, downplaying the significance of him being drafted. There was also the Black Lives Matter movement that began in 2013, with a re-emergence in 2020 after the murder of George Floyd, as well as Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the anthem in 2016. One can only imagine the emails sent by Gruden in regard to these topics.
One sociological explanation for this is how homophobia is part of the persona an athlete creates when they become a part of the social culture created by the sporting environment. John Amaechi is a former NBA player who came out as gay once he retired, and he has an interesting take on homophobia in sport. In his book he says, “Homophobia is a ballplayer posture, akin to donning a “game face,” wearing flashy jewelry or driving the perfect black Escalade.” Jon Gruden was always viewed as a tough guy, the attitude people are supposed to have when playing football. This tough guy persona may be exactly what fostered this racist and homophobic attitude seen in Gruden’s emails.