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Early in my career I found myself sitting at a conference-room table having a very difficult conversation with a colleague in a far more powerful position than my own.
I was nervous. I was uncertain about the reception I'd get and whether it would impact my future in the organization. Still, I was confident and comforted by my belief that having this dialogue was the absolute right thing to do, because that's what friends are for. Right?
And so we talked. And talked. And talked. I will not disclose details of the issues at hand.
In the end, the relationship survived (so did my job). A new understanding was reached. And the behavior I'd sought to address with the help of another colleague changed, at least as far as we witnessed publicly from that point forward.
Whatever risks there were, to this day, I am happy to have found the courage to confront them.
Much has been said and written about former Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden, who resigned his position this week after news reports of disparaging comments he made in emails to an NFL team executive from 2011-18 were published, a time during which Gruden was a pivotal broadcaster.
They were ugly in every sense of the word, and, apparently, given the length of time the emails covered, they found safe harbor.
What I find so disappointing is, like millions of others, I gave Gruden the benefit of the doubt. I have never met him but I liked him. No, he was far from the best coach in pro football. Yes, he won a Super Bowl, with a terrific team he inherited. It wasn't a stroke of luck that stuffed untold millions of dollars into his pockets over the years, from coaching to serving as an analyst on ESPN's "Monday Night Football" to hawking products as a pitchman.
Perceptions are too often a reality when, in truth, reality is nothing like perceptions.
The NFL has spent a lot of time and money trying to shape views about being a fully committed partner in the effort to champion diversity, inclusion and equality. You've seen the slogans and hashtags, the PSAs and the beautifully produced and performed "Lift Every Voice and Sing," widely considered the Black national anthem, played before games.
Much of that effort is squandered, though, by one Jon Gruden. By one Jerry Richardson (former owner of the Carolina Panthers). By the continued banishment of one Colin Kaepernick.
There is so much progress yet to be realized here.
In the late 1980s I landed an internship with the Kansas City Chiefs. I cannot put into words, even now, how much that wonderful experience meant to me. I'd hoped it would be the start of a long run in the NFL. That was my dream. I interviewed with another Club for a full-time job after my internship. I didn't get it. That was the end of the quest. And I moved on.
But I never stopped loving the game. Still do.
That's why it's so disheartening to learn of Gruden's "behind-the-scenes" persona. Clearly, he's not alone. Such disclosures have the potential to undermine everything positive we think sports, and football, in particular, provide in our society, if those in positions of great influence hold such negative views about many of us who are perceived different and, thereby, inferior.
The most effective way to bring real change is to take a chance and push back against this kind of thinking, this kind of insensitivity, this kind of hate. It doesn't have to be a shove either.
Might be a family member. Could be your coworker. Maybe a longtime friend.
Have a conversation with them, scary as it seems.
Silence is complicity.
That's my take. What's yours? Fire off your comments!