4:39 PM PT -- DeMaurice Smith is breaking his silence on the Jon Gruden email from 2011, saying "it's proof the fight against racism, racist tropes and intolerance is not over."
"This is not about an email as much as it is about a pervasive belief by some that people who look like me can be treated as less," DS said on social media.
The NFLPA Director also says Gruden personally reached out to him, and the men plan to "connect" sometime soon.
"But, make no mistake, the news is not about what is said in our private conversation, but what else is said by people who never thought they would be exposed and how they are going to be held to account," Smith wrote.
Jon Gruden apologized for his racially insensitive 2011 email once again on Sunday ... insisting he's not a racist and telling reporters, "I can't tell you how sick I am."
The Las Vegas head coach met with media members just minutes after the Raiders' 20-9 loss to the Bears ... and it wasn't long before Gruden had to answer questions about an 11-year-old email that contained racist language.
"I apologize for the insensitive remarks," the 58-year-old said. "I had no racial intentions with those remarks at all."
If you missed it ... during a probe into allegations of workplace misconduct in the Washington Football Team's organization, an email Gruden had sent to a team exec had been discovered by NFL investigators.