Photo Credit: John Peterson

Drake’s Takes: Nebraska Back on the Road and the Jon Gruden Situation

October 15, 2021

This week’s Drake’s Takes talks about the upcoming away game for Nebraska football, Jon Gruden’s resignation and broader issues of racism.

Minnesota on the Road

Nebraska will play its eighth game on Saturday in as many weeks, and it’s an interesting one. 

The Huskers need a win on the road against Minnesota, a team to which they’ve lost two straight. If they lose, they’ll need to upset a top-10 team to make a bowl game. 

Nebraska has looked like the better team this season despite a worse record, as it hasn’t lost to Bowling Green. The Golden Gophers are also dealing with a rash of injuries — their top two running backs are out for the season. Minnesota quarterback Tanner Morgan also hasn’t been good, averaging under 150 total yards per game. 

Despite that, there are also reasons to feel like this game won’t be easy. Nebraska is winless on the road this year, and despite being fairly consistent in the past six games, has been known for these types of losses. Minnesota dealt with injuries last year and still came out on top, and that was in Lincoln. 

In 2019, the Huskers got manhandled on the road in Minnesota. That was without Adrian Martinez, but I’m not sure how much he would’ve been able to change in the 34-7 loss. 

But, the sense of an inevitable letdown is how I felt about the Northwestern game going into it. It was Northwestern––no matter the context, an easy win was out of the question, right? Nebraska proved that logic to be very wrong.

I think this could easily end up being another one of those situations, and it’s why I’ll stick with a somewhat comfortable Nebraska win in predicting this game, although it won’t be by a 49-point margin. I wouldn’t necessarily be surprised if things don’t turn out that way, but the Huskers are simply the better team here. 

Jon Gruden and the NFL’s Issues

One of the biggest pieces of news to come out of this week was the uncovering of Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden’s insensitive emails, resulting in his resignation.

The first email that was released publicly, in which he made racist remarks toward NFL Players Association director DeMaurice Smith in 2011—was found during an ongoing investigation into the Washington Football Team. That then led to other emails, ones which not only were racist, but also sexist and homophobic. Gruden resigned on Monday.

It’s worth noting that if all that had been uncovered was the first racist email, Gruden would probably still have his job right now. Take that however you’d like. The email was from 10 years ago, sure, but his current-day response of not having a racist bone in his body showed that he still doesn’t understand. 

In the best-case scenario, Gruden didn’t realize the racist connotations of what he said and has no prejudice toward Black people. However, in that scenario, he should also be willing to listen first and realize that even if you are not a racist, you can say racist things and be criticized for them and learn from the experience. Instead of focusing on that, he gave the tired moral defense of what he believes his character to be. 

That discussion of his character went out the window anyway when the second set of emails dropped. 

The fun (actually awful) part of this is that this isn’t just a Gruden issue. As more emails are unleashed, the situation gets worse. Former Washington Football Team president Bruce Allen had a friendship with one of the NFL’s top lawyers — in which among other controversial conversations, they joked about the Rooney Rule and other diversity initiatives. 

I wouldn’t doubt that the issue goes beyond these stories, and it’s hard to hear, especially knowing how the league has treated Colin Kaepernick. 

Writing About Race and Racism

One of the things I’ve learned while writing this column is that the ideas sometimes come easier when there is conflict such as the Gruden situation. 

After all, I write a lot about the intersection of race and sports. It’s a large part of what I’d like to do with my life. 

However, what makes me think is the conflict part of it. These stories of racism are important to talk about, I’m blessed to have the space to talk about these issues and I know my perspective is appreciated. At the same time, it’s important to me that I don’t end up only writing about race when something bad has happened. 

It’s somewhat of a silly concern I have about myself, because I know I haven’t done so. I’ve talked to many Black athletes about being Black in a way that hasn’t focused on racism and pain, and will continue to do so.

So, I’d just like to continue to emphasize that while I won’t ever stop talking about issues of racism in my writing, it’s important to focus on the joy as well. 

One thing that’s been making me very happy recently is the performance of Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson. On Monday, he led a huge comeback against the Colts. For all the unnecessary criticism that he’s taken through his career thus far, he’s continued to shine as one of the league’s best and most exciting players. And that’s very cool. 

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