John Lynch called for unity during his induction speech this summer at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Lynch’s poignant words stand in contrast to the NFL news of the week, in which Jon Gruden’s history of racist, sexist and anti-LGBTQ epithets were revealed in emails from 2010 to ’18.
Gruden, 58, resigned Monday as head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders after the offensive emails he sent to former Washington executive Bruce Allen, and others, over nearly a decade were exposed.
The 49ers’ general manager on Tuesday reflected on the message he delivered two months ago in Canton, Ohio, when NBC Sports Bay Area asked him about the obligations of those in NFL leadership positions.
“Because of what I believe in my heart of hearts — I talked about it the Hall of Fame speech — I think it becomes hollow words if we say, ‘I advocate for the rest of the world take the lead of football,’ because I see football as such a pure deal of it doesn’t matter where you come from,” Lynch.
“But, obviously, we still have work to do if those types attitudes — now, I understand those happened a long time ago — but if those attitudes exist, we got a long way to go.”
Lynch played two seasons for Gruden while with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They won the Super Bowl together in 2002, the first year Gruden took over as head coach.
In his speech at the Hall of Fame, Lynch emphasized how his own life had been impacted by shared experiences with individuals with whom he shared little else in common.
“Each of us comes from a different walk of life,” Lynch said on Aug. 8. “But, when we huddle up, we huddle up as a team. It doesn’t matter where we come from or our background. All that matters is the fulfillment of one goal: victory.”
Lynch said it is appropriate to expect more from individuals in positions of power in the NFL. Lynch is in his fifth season as the 49ers’ top personnel executive.
“We need to be a standard because it is such a tremendous beacon for me of what our world should be like,” Lynch said. “All that stuff kind of goes away and you appreciate people for who they are and for the things you have in common, which is a lot more than what you might ever think, and then for the differences.
“You learn about people’s cultures. Having said that, if we want to talk about that, we have to be about it. And, obviously, there’s still a lot of room for growth, and the standard must be high, though.”