Ugly words from the past are surfacing everywhere this week.
In the light of day, away from the shelter of “private” messages and emails, the words are even uglier. Two incidents are making headlines this week, and the sports world and Florida are at the root of both.
First, there is Jon Gruden, the now-former head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders. The New York Times revealed emails in which Gruden seems to offend everyone except straight, white, males who don’t play football. The emails span seven years. He called NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell a “faggot” and “pussy.” When Michael Sam became the first openly gay man drafted in the NFL, Gruden decried the pressure to draft “queers,” and complained about ESPN giving Caitlyn Jenner an award after she transitioned. These emails were sent to a former member of the Washington Football Team’s management as well as the founder of Florida food chain PDQ. (Gruden won a Super Bowl during his time as Head Coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.)
His public comments are very different from his private conversations. Ironically, the first and only out gay NFL player is on the Raiders. When Carl Nassib came out over the summer, Gruden told ESPN, “I learned a long time ago what makes a man different is what makes him great.”
Gruden doesn’t just attack the LGBT community. He also used a racist trope to describe the head of the NFL Player’s Union, mocked the league’s player-driven social justice movement, sent topless pictures of cheerleaders, and complained about women becoming referees.
Locally, WLRN reporter Daniel Rivero chose to bring back one of his own tweets from about 10 years ago.
“#freespeech I thought we could say what we want Joakim Noah let one off wtf the big deal! Gays should realize faggot has come to mean nothin.”
He’s referring to an incident at a Miami Heat game where one of the visiting Chicago Bulls called a Heat fan a “faggot.”
According to Rivero he believed some people were going to attack him over his 10-year-old tweet.
“Since it's obvious some people are going to try to bring up this tweet from before I was in journalism to discredit me I should say: it's a bad tweet. Also I wasn't very good at punctuation then, that was not my word but Noah's word. Still, bad. We grow as humans, as we should.”
Noah was fined and apologized. But Rivero, who wasn’t a working journalist at the time, used the word in his own context, appearing to tell the LGBT community what should and shouldn’t offend them. In reposting the tweet, Rivero acknowledged “it's a bad tweet.”
In an email to SFGN, he says he’s truly sorry and understands the power of words today.
“When I wrote that I was trying to say that words sometimes have their original meaning, and sometimes they have their common meaning. As another example, during my childhood and early adulthood it was pretty common for a lot of people to say something was ‘gay’ when it had nothing to do with sexuality. It was commonly used as a way to say ‘stupid.’ The mistake of my thinking at the time was that the alternative meaning should somehow overtake the original, derogatory meaning,” Rivero wrote. “This thinking was wrong, and more years on this earth have hammered that into my head. A slur or an otherwise descriptive term used as a slur should be treated as such, with no exceptions.”