Among the reasons I despise cancel culture is the hypocrisy of the movement. NBC forced out Megyn Kelly because she asked what’s wrong with dressing in blackface, but comedian Sarah Silverman was given a pass for doing it. That wasn’t Silverman’s only egregious transgression if judged by today’s prevailing standards.
A friend recently uncovered some earlier Silverman jokes that were truly offensive, even when she told them many years ago. One was a reference to Black teenage pregnancies, and another was a lame “joke” that stereotyped Asians. Silverman’s career continues unabated, despite not being all that funny, at least in my view.
Jon Gruden, the coach of the Las Vegas Raiders football team, is the cancel culture’s latest victim. He surrendered without a fight. An unknown person or persons looking to bring down Gruden last week leaked to the Wall Street Journal a racist email he sent more than a decade ago. But the leaker(s) saved the really good stuff for the New York Times. The publication last night reported that that Gruden also sent emails considered homophobic and misogynistic and that he opposed players kneeling during the national anthem.
Gruden resigned within hours of the Times’ story. He should have grown a pair and taken a lesson from the comedian Dave Chappelle.
The twits on Twitter these past few weeks have been calling on Netflix to cancel Chappelle because in his latest special he once again made jokes the gay and transgender communities deem offensive. The corporate media picked up the rallying cry. In a new low even for disgraceful NBC, the Comcast network published a story critical of Chappelle based on three tweets, one written by a twit with only 200 followers.
Despite the corporate media’s amplification of the Twitter noise calling for Chappelle’s obliteration, the comedian refused to bend to the cancel crowd’s will and apologize. Last Thursday, in a performance at Hollywood Bowl in liberal Los Angeles, Chappelle was given a standing ovation in the presence of a star-studded audience.
“If this is what being canceled is like, I love it,” the 48-year-old comedian said in response to the applause. He later went on to say, ““Fuck Twitter. Fuck NBC News, ABC News, all these stupid ass networks. I’m not talking to them. I’m talking to you. This is real life.”
Netflix so far hasn’t acceded to demands to cancel Chappelle, which speaks to that company’s hypocrisy. Chappelle uses the N-word liberally and gratuitously. If a Netflik employee repeated but one of his jokes at work they’d be promptly fired for violating the company’s Kumbaya code of conduct.
Chappelle in his latest special makes clear he’s bothered by charges that he’s transphobic and asks that he be judged by his actions. This includes having a transgender comedian he didn’t find particularly funny open for him during a show in San Francisco. (Having a bad opening act is a comedian’s worst nightmare because it puts the audience in a sour mood.) The transgender comedian was demolished on social media when they defended Chappelle and subsequently committed suicide. Chappelle notes that no one knows what drives a person to suicide but said the social media attacks likely contributed. He’s set up a trust fund for the woman’s children.
What I appreciate about Chappelle is that his comedy is rife with insightful observations. In his latest Netflix special, he notes the furor unleashed on the rapper DaBaby for making homophobic comments during a concert in July, but there’s been little public outrage about his involvement in a shooting at a North Carolina Walmart where he killed someone. Although DaBaby claimed he was defending himself and was only convicted on a misdemeanor charge of carrying a concealed weapon, the family of the 19-year-old victim insists DaBaby started the fight.
“In our country, you can shoot and kill a n*****,” Chappelle says. “But you better not hurt a gay person’s feelings.”
I prefer to judge Gruden by his actions. The NFL has but one openly gay player on the active roster. His name is Carl Nassib and he plays for the Las Vegas Raiders. Nassib revealed he was gay in June and Gruden publicly supported him.
“I learned a long time ago what makes a man different is what makes him great,” Gruden said.
Critics say Gruden’s emails from years ago reflect his true feelings, but like a lot of people, including me, Gruden might have evolved in recent years. His email about N.F.L. Players Association President DeMaurice Smith seemed racist, but Gruden insists his comment was a term he uses for people who are lying. He made the comment in a fit of anger. I, too, have said inappropriate and hurtful comments when overcome with anger and frustration that didn’t reflect my values and beliefs.
Gruden is a jock, someone who more than a decade ago I wouldn’t expect to talk in a manner acceptable to those working in corporate media or Netflix. Indeed, if someone might possess emails from other NFL coaches and owners from more than a decade ago, I encourage you to contact the New York Times or Wall Street Journal. I’m sure they will find nuggets of big “news” buried in the trove. There is no statute of limitations with the woke corporate media.
As corporate media fact checkers like to say, Gruden’s emails require some context. Professional football is a decidedly violent sport, and many players don’t contain their violence to the playing field. Multiple N.F.L players have been charged with murder, dozens have been accused of rape and violently attacking women, and New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton financially incentivized his players to injure or maim opponents.
Payton is still coaching. I also note the NFL, the corporate media, and the cancel culture crowd were nonplussed when DeSean Jackson, then of the Philadelphia Eagles, posted antisemitic quotes attributed to Hitler on his Instagram account. Jackson now plays for the Los Angeles Rams, home to one of the biggest Jewish populations outside of Israel.
Yet its Gruden’s career that’s been upended. Those who think appropriately so should be asking who and why someone leaked Gruden’s emails rather than Commissioner Roger Goodell making them public and promptly taking disciplinary or other action against Gruden.
According to the New York Times, Gruden’s emails were reviewed as part of an N.F.L. investigation of workplace misconduct at a team formerly known as the Washington Redskins. If the Times reporting is correct – admittedly a giant leap of faith these days – Goodell last week received a summary of the investigation’s findings and the league shared with the Raiders some of Gruden’s offending emails.
Goodell and the Raiders issued the obligatory statements decrying Gruden’s emails as not being in accordance with their lofty “values,” but why did they wait till the emails leaked before denouncing them? Netflix, for all its hypocrisy, promptly fired three executives for trash talking colleagues, a violation of that company’s values.
Goodell has shown he wants to curry favor with the corporate media, so he should go whole hog catering to the “progressive” agenda and remake professional football into a more genteel sport that attracts more sensitive coaches and players. Among my recommendations: Doing away with tackles and allowing only very gentle love taps; banning the display of any emotions or frustrations that might make a sports reporter uncomfortable; and awarding a Super Bowl trophy to every team at year-end so that no player is left feeling slighted or inferior.
Say or believe what you want about Gruden, but you’d be hard pressed to name anyone who loves and understands professional football as much as he does. If he was a racist, I’m doubtful he could be a successful coach in a league where 75 percent of the players are Black. For years, Gruden stood beside Mike Tirico, whose is Black, and the banter and the chemistry between the two of them provided some great game calling and commentary for ESPN.
“Seven years as my partner on Monday Night Football. I probably know Jon better than anybody in the league on a personal level,” Tirico said. “(Gruden) was ashamed by the comments in the e-mail. The comments in the e-mail are wrong. But, my experience kind of parallels Tim Brown, who played for Jon and is a Hall of Fame receiver. He said he never experienced or saw anything that would say Jon was racist in any way. That is exactly the experience I had, those seven years of traveling, three days together on the road together every week.”
Former Indianapolis and Tampa Bay coach Tony Dungy, who also is Black and strikes me as the most gentlemanly leader in N.F.L. history, criticized Gruden’s emails but didn’t call for his firing.
“(Gruden) said it wasn’t racially motivated. I have to believe him. I think this was an incident that was 10 years ago. He apologized. I think we need to accept that apology and move on,” Dungy said.
After a two-year hiatus watching football because the game had become so politically charged, I was gradually returning this season and following the sport. The Raiders possibly could have been contenders this year, but with Gruden gone that’s doubtful. The N.F.L. will be a lot less interesting without him.
I’m going to spend my next several Sundays watching Dave Chappelle specials. Unlike on Twitter, in “real life” Chappelle is considered a very funny guy. These days I need some good laughs.