Former Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden, for the first time, publicly addressed the email controversy that cost him his job last October.
Gruden, who filed a lawsuit against the NFL last year alleging the league singled him out, spoke Tuesday at the Little Rock Touchdown Club in Arkansas, saying he was going to be "honest" with the gathering.
"I'm ashamed about what has come about in these emails, and I'll make no excuses for it," he said. "It's shameful. But I am a good person. I believe that. I go to church. I've been married for 31 years. I've got three great boys. I still love football. I've made some mistakes. But I don't think anybody in here hasn't. And I just ask for forgiveness, and hopefully, I get another shot."
Gruden's emails, which contained racist, anti-gay and misogynistic language, first came to light in a Wall Street Journal article Oct. 8. He was on the sideline for the Raiders that weekend, before The New York Times published an article Oct. 11 that contained additional emails. Gruden, who had signed a 10-year contract worth a reported $100 million to leave ESPN's Monday Night Football booth and return to the Raiders in 2018, resigned that night.
The emails came to light in an NFL investigation into workplace conditions with the Washington franchise as Gruden was messaging with then-Washington executive Bruce Allen.
The NFL, the lawsuit contends, had been in possession of the emails since June 2021.
"Ask the NFL," Raiders owner Mark Davis told ESPN at the time. "They have all the answers."
Gruden's lawsuit has claimed "tortious interference" by the NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell, saying they selectively leaked his emails to force his removal.
Of the 650,000 emails collected in the investigation, the lawsuit contends, Gruden's were the only ones made public. They were also written when he was an ESPN employee.
On May 25, Nevada judge Nancy L. Allf ruled in favor of Gruden, opening the possibility of a jury trial, by denying the NFL's motion to compel arbitration as well as the league's motion to dismiss the case outright.
Speaking in Little Rock on Tuesday, Gruden became teary-eyed as the crowd applauded him.
"I get choked up, you know, because there's a lot of misunderstanding out there right now," he said. "What you read, what you hear, what you watch on TV. Hell, I worked at ESPN for nine years. I worked hard at that job. I don't even want to watch the channel anymore because I don't believe everything is true. And I know a lot of it is just trying to get people to watch. But I think we've got to get back to reality."
After Gruden's resignation, the Raiders, under interim coach Rich Bisaccia, went 7-5, winning their final four games to finish 10-7 and claim the team's second playoff berth since 2002. But after losing a wild-card round game at the eventual AFC champion Cincinnati Bengals, Davis replaced Bisaccia and general manager Mike Mayock with longtime New England Patriots staffers Josh McDaniels and Dave Ziegler, respectively.