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Squires: Jon Gruden’s fall from grace is the natural result of corporations that embrace cultural Darwinism

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Jon Gruden's swift descent from coach of the Las Vegas Raiders to social pariah is a cautionary tale about the consequences that await people who resist social change. His recklessness made it easy to force him out of the league, but the truth of the matter is that even people who use more gentle language to object to the infusion of social justice causes into the workplace run the risk of extinction.

This controversy started late last week when it was revealed that in 2011, Gruden — at the time an analyst with ESPN — said that players' union leader DeMaurice Smith had lips the size of Michelin tires. Every media outlet referred to this as a racist trope, but Gruden was still able to coach his team on Sunday.

Then more emails were revealed on Monday in which Gruden harshly criticized NFL commissioner Roger Goddell, player protests, the hiring of female referees, the promotion of Caitlyn Jenner, and other league priorities in language ESPN described as "misogynistic, racist, and anti-gay."

Gruden won a Super Bowl in the 2002 season and left coaching in 2009. He is such a respected football mind that he was given one of the richest coaching contracts in league history despite being away from the game for almost a decade. Jon Gruden has been a fixture on NFL sidelines for over 20 years, but in all that time he never evolved or adapted to his changing habitat. Quotes from Gruden's emails as well as characterizations of his correspondence paint the picture of a man who was resistant to the rapid social change that is pushed by every large corporation, including the NFL.

You don't have to defend Jon Gruden's words to wonder why emails he sent 10 years ago are surfacing now. I certainly don't. I'm much more of a Tony Dungy guy in terms of both style and substance. I also believe using email to personally attack people the way Gruden did was extremely unwise. The truth, however, is that every person in corporate America is facing extinction from the marriage of corporations and social justice in the workplace.

A person who is appalled by the content of Jon Gruden's emails may one day find himself being pressured to fly one of the pride flags his company passes out to employees in June. His religious convictions about gender and sexuality may not be enough to keep him out of corporate crosshairs. He must adapt or DIE — or more specifically, feel the full weight of his company's Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity regime.

The NFL suffered a tremendous public relations loss during the Kaepernick years. It tried to appease players who felt entitled to engage in political protest on their employers' time and dime. It also tried to reassure fans it remained committed to its support of the armed forces and promotion of American patriotism. The result was that the league faced pressure from fans who claimed the NFL supported anthem protests as well as those who believed team owners colluded to blackball Colin Kaepernick.

Since then, Roger Goddell and team owners have tried to prove they can be just as socially conscious as the NBA. The NFL struck a deal with a group of players to donate $90 million to social justice causes and supported a BLM-inspired video of players asking whether they will be the next black victims of police violence. The league also declared "football is gay" in a video earlier this year after Carl Nassib became the first active NFL player to come out.

The NFL's partnership with Jay-Z and his company Roc Nation to advise on entertainment selections has probably been its most significant social justice statement to date. The NFL effectively ended its public standoff with Kaepernick by getting an even bigger black icon to vouch for the league's commitment to social change.

The irony is that the league that seems so sensitive about coarse language in Jon Gruden's private emails has no problem having Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, and Eminem perform at this year's Super Bowl. The lyrics these three men have promoted publicly — littered with slurs aimed at black men, women, and gay people — make Gruden's emails look like a Dr. Seuss book by comparison.

This is perfectly consistent with how large corporations champion fashionable political positions and punish dissenting voices to demonstrate their commitment to "social change." It will be interesting to see whether employees, from multimillionaire coaches to hourly wage earners, will conform to this new environment or risk being culled from the herd in this era of unnatural selection.
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