There’s a famous saying among Raiders fans, players, and everyone else associated with the franchise: “Once a Raider, Always a Raider.”
Former Raiders coach Jon Gruden put that credo to the test on Wednesday after winning a favorable decision in his case against the NFL, stemming from Gruden’s leaked emails that led to his resignation last season.
“I’m just going to let the process take care of itself … it’s good to be back in Vegas,” Gruden told reporters after his appearance, adding, “Go Raiders.”
Saying “Go Raiders” after beating the NFL in court likely made a lot of Raiders fans proud. But for my money, Gruden should keep the Raiders out of it. Because he’s no longer a Raider at all. Literally, of course, but also figuratively. And he should never be considered a Raider again.
Why not, you ask? Like nearly everything with the Raiders, it starts with Al Davis.
Davis, the late owner of the Raiders, was known for being at odds with the NFL, dating back to his brief time as AFL commissioner and peaking when Davis moved the Raiders from Oakland to Los Angeles in the early ’80s. Thanks to Davis, Gruden’s current battle with the NFL provides a familiar “Raiders vs. the NFL” feel.
Raiders fans themselves often have a standoffish attitude toward the NFL, sometimes for good reason (see, Tuck Rule), and other times not.
So Gruden’s “Go Raiders,” remark after his legal win vs. the NFL seemed to hit the mark for many. Here’s the deal though: Gruden was in court because he wrote multiple emails that contained racist, misogynistic, and homophobic remarks, as most know. Also as most know, such commentary is more anti-Al Davis, and therefore more anti-Raiders, than anything one could imagine.
Davis hired the first Latino head coach in Hall of Famer Tom Flores. Davis hired the first Black head coach in Hall of Famer Art Shell. Davis hired Amy Trask as CEO, the first woman to earn that role in the NFL
The Raiders also had the NFL’s first openly gay player, Carl Nassib, though he played for Gruden. That’s confounding, but it also cuts to the heart of the situation.
Gruden misrepresented himself to the nth degree when he was Raiders coach. He attempted to lead a historically diverse, groundbreaking franchise while having views that clash with the values the Raiders represent. It’s uncertain whether Gruden still had those views during his second stint as Raiders coach, however, since his emails were written about a decade ago. But during his first stint from 1998-01? It’s much less questionable.
And I don’t want to completely bury Gruden here. Sure, he should never coach in the NFL again, and he won’t. His comments were abhorrent, even if limited to a few emails. I also haven’t heard much remorse from Gruden, or a desire to be better.
Still, he should still have the freedom to live his life unfettered. Gruden is alive and well and rich and has the world at his fingertips and I don’t need him to be miserable, constantly trying to make up for past wrongs, as long as he treats others with respect in public and private moving forward.
I also, however, don’t want to hear him say “Go Raiders” ever again. Once a Raider, Always a Raider? Not Gruden. Not for me. No matter how good it sounds after beating the NFL in court.
Another thing: the Raiders indeed got the short end of the stick last season when Gruden’s emails were the only ones revealed after an investigation into another NFL franchise. Just when the Raiders appeared ready to hit their stride, owner Mark Davis had to fire his beloved coach.
But the Raiders overcame the Gruden issue, and the tragic Henry Ruggs situation, earning a 10-7 record and a trip to the playoffs. Gruden is in the Raiders’ rearview mirror, and it’s not worth defending him and his grotesque emails in any way, even to stick it to the NFL. Even if the Raiders may have been wronged. Besides, in the end, Las Vegas got rid of an imposter, and that’s a positive outcome.
At least details from the NFL’s investigation into the Washington Commanders may come to light due to Gruden’s win in court on Monday. That would be appropriate, considering the league fined Washington $10 million and was short on specifics about why it did so.
This court battle, however, is not the Raiders’ to fight. It’s Jon Gruden’s. And while he used to be a Raider, he’s not anymore, quite literally. He should keep the Raiders out of it. What’s more, the Raiders should keep Gruden from re-entering their orbit, in the name of all things Raiders and most of all, Al Davis.
Las Vegas has a new coach, high hopes, and enough off-the-field issues as it is. So best of luck to everyone in that messy legal situation. Even the NFL. Even Gruden. Because as familiar as the situation feels to followers of the silver and black, I didn’t notice any Raiders in that courtroom at all.