It’s not “cancel culture” that got Jon Gruden. It’s stupid culture.
By now you’re probably aware that Mr. Gruden resigned as the head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders, the pro football team. He stepped down after reports surfaced documenting his repeated use of racist and homophobic terms in e-mails to various officials in the National Football League. Those e-mails were written when he was a television analyst, prior to hiring on as the coach of the Raiders.
Some Raiders fans and other conspiracy theorists have complained that Mr. Gruden was done in by “cancel culture,” that he should be free to say whatever he wants, and that things he wrote years ago shouldn’t be held against him.
First things first: Mr. Gruden is free to say whatever he wants. Freedom of speech means that the government cannot put you in jail for what you say. He’s not being put in jail. He just lost his job.
The Raiders, as a private business, are also free to fire him (or accept his resignation, as if it’s really any different) for what he says. Or for really any conduct-related reason they want to fire him. They don’t have to even say why, but it’s enough to say that what Mr. Gruden said in those e-mails was detrimental to the business. Which, of course, it was.
This is important, something people often get confused about. Your employer can have a policy that forbids you from engaging in politics at all; your employer can fire you for things you say. That is not a violation of your freedoms. It would be a violation of your freedoms only if it were the government enforcing such restrictions.
OK, OK, you get it. Sorry. I can’t help belaboring the point, because I hear confusion on it so often.
Anyway, you might argue that it’s nonetheless “cancel culture” run amok here. That argument would go something like: Gruden was canned because he said some dumb things several years ago. So he made a mistake. Why can’t he just apologize for that mistake? Why does he have to get fired? Isn’t that evidence of over-sensitivity?
Well, here’s where you have to defer to the rights of the business. Just assume for the moment that you’re the owner of the Raiders. Your team, and for that matter your fans, are made up of people of various races, ethnicities and sexual orientations.
If your head coach has a documented history of racist and homophobic commentary, how effectively is he going to be able to lead the team and represent the business to the outside world? Probably not very well. So he’s got to go.
Let’s be serious. Mr. Gruden said things that were just straight-up stupid. He called the league commissioner a “f-----,” (a gay slur) and “a clueless anti-football p----,” (using a crude word for female anatomy) and objected to drafting gay players, calling them “queers.”
He has every right to say ridiculous, stupid things like that. And then the Raiders have every right to fire him. Done and done.