It’s been a month since Jon Gruden resigned as the head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders due to a number of racist, homophobic and sexist emails that the NFL found when conducting an investigation into the Washington Football Team’s workplace culture. Despite the fact that “NFL executives have reviewed more than 650,000 emails,” according to The Wall Street Journal, Gruden’s were the only emails to leak to the media. CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora reported on October 31 that the former coach was mulling his legal options. He has decided to fight back against the NFL.
According to a 21-page lawsuit filed on November 11 in Clark County District Court, Gruden is suing the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell, per court documents viewed by Heavy.
“Through a malicious and orchestrated campaign, the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell sought to destroy the career and reputation of Jon Gruden, the former head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders,” the lawsuit states. “Defendants’ treatment of Gruden was a Soviet-style character assassination. There was no warning and no process. Defendants held the emails for months until they were leaked to the national media in the middle of the Raiders’ season in order to cause maximum damage to Gruden.”
The lawsuit also states that the coach was “forced to resign.” Gruden’s lawyers broke down the events that led to his eventual resignation.
“When their initial salvo did not result in Gruden’s firing or resignation, Defendants ratcheted up the pressure by intimating that further documents would become public if Gruden was not fired,” the lawsuit states. “They followed through with this threat by leaking another batch of documents to the New York Times for an October 11, 2021 article. On October 7, 2021, Jon Gruden was the head coach of the Raiders on a 10-year, $100-million contract. By October 11, 2021, he had been forced to resign.”
When the first email was leaked by The Wall Street Journal on October 7, where Gruden wrote that NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith “has lips the size of michellin tires,” he did not resign and continued to coach that Sunday against the Chicago Bears. On October 11, The New York Times leaked the emails from Gruden where “he denounced the emergence of women as referees, the drafting of a gay player and the tolerance of players protesting during the playing of the national anthem.” He resigned that night.
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Lawsuit States Defendants ‘Did Intend to Hurt Gruden’
According to Raiders owner Mark Davis, Gruden and the team have already reached a settlement on his contract, which had over five years remaining at the time of his resignation. Davis did not disclose any figures but La Canfora previously reported that the coach is losing “roughly $50 million in future salary.”
That’s not even taking into account future earnings that could’ve gone after his initial contract with the Raiders was up. Gruden’s attorneys believe that the NFL sought out to hurt the coach once they obtained the emails.
“Defendants, however, did intend to hurt Gruden and they did so with unchecked hypocrisy and arrogance,” the lawsuit states.
NFL Calls Allegations ‘Meritless’
The NFL has maintained that they don’t know how the emails were leaked to the media. In response to the lawsuit, league spokesperson Brian McCarthy vowed that the NFL is ready to defend itself against Gruden.
“The allegations are entirely meritless and the NFL will vigorously defend against these claims,” McCarthy said, via NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero.
It’s early in the process but should be one of the most high-profile lawsuits to hit the NFL.