Max Thompson

Alright, you guessed it. It’s time for the one topic that absolutely everyone loves to argue about: cancel culture. For those of you that aren’t familiar with what has occurred in the past 48 hours, allow me to fill you in.

Jon Gruden, the former head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders, resigned from his position after an investigation showed that he had a litany of various inappropriate comments over the past decade. The Raiders have condemned the statements and plan on removing him from the Ring of Honor. Gruden was a Super Bowl winning coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the early 2000s and was responsible for a large portion of the then-Oakland Raiders success as well.

Now, I am not going to get into the individual comments that Gruden said in the hundreds of leaked emails. If you are interested in the details, I would recommend the original piece by the New York Times. I am not here to report what happened. I am here to answer the question from my title: Is Jon Gruden the latest cancel culture victim?

Well, this is a tough question to answer. As the world continues to migrate to an online-first lifestyle, more and more notable figures are coming under fire. This has to do with the fact that individuals can share content themselves and the fact that digital permanence has changed our ability to keep inner thoughts, well, inner.

While there may be some instances when there is a general overreaction by the masses, cancel culture is just another thing that the older generation likes to keep in their “what else can I complain about” toolkit. Just like the technology that has led to these developments themselves, Boomers have no idea how cancel culture works.

Developments that would be called cancel culture today used to just be called ‘being held responsible for your actions.’ This is the main reason why there is so much faux outrage. Let’s think about this for a second, using Jon Gruden as our example.

Gruden, beyond the shadow of a doubt, used horrible language to make homophobic, racist and misogynistic remarks. In personal emails with other NFL executives, he somehow managed to belittle women, black men, members of the LGBTQ community and many more. Basically, if you are a minority, there’s a pretty good chance that Jon Gruden attacked your livelihood.

Now, one main issue that the anti-cancel culture crowd has with this is the timing of it all. Their argument goes: “Sure, Gruden said some horrible stuff, but it was in 2011! That was 10 years ago!”

That is factually correct and this is something that actually can occur. Presentism occurs when we hold previous historical figures accountable to modern standards. For example, Abraham Lincoln would be a horrible person by today’s standards. Nevertheless, it is bad logic in our Gruden case.

Making fun of a group of minority individuals isn’t any less bad in 2011 than it is in 2021. Using derogatory homophobic slurs didn’t become frowned upon overnight. In other words, you can’t just say “this person was objectively horrible but they were objectively horrible a while ago” if the standards of conduct haven’t changed between those two times.

At this point in the hypothetical conversation with an anti-cancel culture individual, we have established a couple of things. First, Gruden did something that was objectively bad. Second, he has no excuse for it. The things that he did were just as bad in 2011 as they were in 2021.

The anti-cancel culture debater is running out of options. I present to you their final straw: the Hannah Montana strategy.

When they can no longer dispute those first two points, they no longer try to! Instead, their argument shifts to “Everyone makes mistakes like this. Everyone has those days like this. We should have some sympathy.”

Sympathy is great. However, we need to really consider if it is deserved or not. Everyone does make mistakes. Usually, in emails, making mistakes means that we forget to attach a file. Or we accidentally misspell the word ‘opportunity.’ We don’t accidentally make mean comments about every non-straight, white male individual.

This issue is not going to go anywhere. Public figures are going to continue to do dumb stuff. We will continue to have the opportunity to react to the public figures. We will continue to have the opportunity to react to the reaction. But from now on, before we react to the reaction with outrage that we only have because we feel like we are supposed to, let’s really give it some thought.

Is Jon Gruden a victim of cancel culture?

No.

He did objectively bad things and was held accountable for those objectively bad things. For the older generation, accountability is central to their identity. If we were more accountable with our finances, we would skip Starbucks and go buy a house. If we were more accountable with our career, we would push to get an amazing job, despite not having equal access to said job.

However, for a group of people so obsessed with personal accountability, they sure do like to let their favorite public figures run from it.

Max Thompson is a junior at UT this year majoring in business management and journalism and electronic media. He can be reached at sthomp92@vols.utk.edu. Follow @The_Out_Route on Twitter for high-quality NFL analysis!

Columns and letters of The Daily Beacon are the views of the individual and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Beacon or the Beacon's editorial staff.

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