Skechers dumps former Raiders coach Jon Gruden as brand ambassador after homophobic, misogynistic emails surface

Lorenzo Reyes
USA TODAY

In the fallout from former Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden's resignation that stemmed from leaked emails in which he used homophobic and misogynistic language, at least one company that Gruden endorses is backing out of its agreement with him.

Skechers, the shoe and apparel company, is terminating its relationship with Gruden Tuesday.

"Skechers is aware of the recent press reporting on the emails of Jon Gruden, which caused him to resign his N.F.L. coaching position.  Upon learning of these developments, we immediately terminated Mr. Gruden’s endorsement contract and our affiliation with him," Skechers vice president of corporate communications and marketing Jennifer Clay wrote to USA TODAY Sports in an email. "Skechers believes in equality, fostering tolerance and understanding for all people. It is at the core of who we are as a global lifestyle brand and why we have a zero tolerance policy for such behavior within our business including those who we formally work with. We believe taking a stand against racist or derogatory comments and for inclusion of all is imperative."

Skechers had previously announced that Gruden, 58, would be joining its roster of brand ambassadors January 28 in a press release. By Tuesday afternoon, the Skechers had taken down the webpage that announced its partnership with Gruden.

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Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden reacts following a penalty in the second half against the Denver Broncos at Empower Field at Mile High.

“We’re always looking for fan favorites to represent our men’s collections and Jon Gruden, with his colorful personality, fits the bill,” Skechers president Michael Greenberg said in the January release. “From winning a Super Bowl in Tampa Bay to his weekly Gruden Grinder awards as a broadcaster, fans have been tuning into what Jon does and says for decades. We’re confident his signature leadership will fit seamlessly into our roster of sports celebrities and help convey the story of how our athletic and casual footwear and apparel delivers on style and comfort for men everywhere.”

The company has worked with several NFL figures and has current relationships with former Dallas Cowboys quarterback and current CBS analyst Tony Romo and former Raiders defensive lineman and current FOX analyst Howie Long. 

Gruden's arrangement with Skechers had been for him to star in a national, multi-platform marketing campaign. He had already appeared in two television commercials that aired in the spring and summer.

Gruden's resignation came a little more than an hour after The New York Times revealed excerpts Monday night of the 58-year-old coach's emails, which were sent between 2011 and 2018 and obtained by the NFL as part of an unrelated investigation into the Washington Football Team

The Times reported that, among other things, Gruden used a homophobic slur to describe NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, denigrated one team's decision to draft a gay player, mocked transgender woman Caitlyn Jenner, deprecated female referees and suggested that a player who kneeled during the national anthem should be fired.

The Wall Street Journal separately reported Friday that Gruden used a racist trope when describing NFL Players' Association executive director DeMaurice Smith in a 2011 email.

When Gruden was an analyst for ESPN's "Monday Night Football" broadcast, he served as a brand ambassador for several companies and frequently appeared in commercials and ad campaigns for those brands. Gruden, however, came out of retirement to coach the Raiders in 2018 and subsequently stopped participating as a brand ambassador for many of the companies with which he had a previous relationship. Both Bridgestone tires and Corona Extra beer, which had featured Gruden in a series of ad campaigns in the mid-2010s when he was a TV analyst, said they do not have a current relationship with Gruden and last worked with him during the 2017 season, his last before returning to coaching.

"The sentiments expressed do not align with our company’s values," a spokeswoman for Constellation Brands, the parent company of Corona, emailed USA TODAY Sports on Tuesday.

GoPro senior corporate communications manager Christopher Prado said in an email to USA TODAY Sports that the company has not had a relationship with Gruden since 2016 and "is deeply offended and disappointed by the content of these reports."

Nationwide sponsored a segment on ESPN's "Monday Night Football" broadcasts during the 2015 and 2016 seasons in which Gruden was featured. The company said it has had no subsequent affiliation with Gruden since then.

In 2017, Gruden also appeared in several ads for GMC, the truck company that is part of General Motors. GMC doesn't have a relationship with Gruden "and has not for many years," Daisy Jimenez, assistant manager for diversity, equity and inclusion communications at General Motors Daisy, wrote in an email to USA TODAY Sports.  

"GM aspires to be the most inclusive company in the world by working with partners who align with our vision and reflect the communities where we live and work," Jimenez added.

Gruden had also previously appeared in ad campaigns for Dunkin' and Hooters, neither of which returned messages or voicemails left by USA TODAY Sports that asked about any potential relationship those companies may have with Gruden. 

The last appearances Gruden made in any of the ad campaigns for the above companies was before he came out of retirement and returned to coaching.

Contributing: Tom Schad and Mike Jones