Jon Gruden has sued the NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell, claiming they “sought to destroy the career and reputation” of the former Las Vegas Raiders coach, according to court documents obtained by Rolling Stone.
The lawsuit was filed Thursday in Clark County District Court in Nevada, one month after Gruden resigned from the Raiders following reports that he used racist, homophobic and misogynistic language in emails. The emails, which were first reported by The Wall Street Journal, emerged during the course of an investigation into alleged workplace misconduct at the Washington Football Team, as Gruden had been communicating with then-Washington president Bruce Allen and others (the emails were sent between 2011 and 2018, when Gruden was working for ESPN).
Gruden’s lawyer, Adam Hosmer-Henner, said in a statement, “The complaint alleges that the defendants selectively leaked Gruden’s private correspondence to the Wall Street Journal and New York Times in order to harm Gruden’s reputation and force him out of his job. There is no explanation or justification for why Gruden’s emails were the only ones made public out of the 650,000 emails collected in the NFL’s investigation of the Washington Football Team or for why the emails were held for months before being released in the middle of the Raiders’ season.”
A spokesperson for the NFL told Rolling Stone, “The allegations are entirely meritless and the NFL will vigorously defend against these claims.”
In the suit, Gruden’s lawyers argued that the NFL leaked Gruden’s emails to “create a distraction from the controversy” surrounding the league’s handling of its investigation into the Washington Football Team. The suit noted the NFL’s decision not to release any reports or documents related to its WFT investigation, even after calls from the NFL Players Association and members of Congress.
“In contrast to the formalities of the Washington Football Team investigation, Defendants’ treatment of Gruden was a Soviet-style character assassination,” Gruden’s suit claims. “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 suit later seems to suggest that Gruden’s emails were leaked because they “contained insulting and derogatory language about Commissioner Goodell, whose actions to harm Gruden in response were taken in his individual capacity and were outside of his scope and authority as Commissioner.” The lawsuit also states: “Out of 650,000 emails obtained months earlier in connection with the investigation into workplace misconduct by the Washington Football Team, Defendants weaponized a small subset that were authored by Gruden… then purposefully leveraged these emails to cause the termination of Gruden’s coaching contract, endorsements, and sponsorships.”
Gruden is seeking damages in excess of $15,000 for each claim of relief in his lawsuit (there are seven in total), and additional exemplary and punitive damages at least three times the amount Gruden could be awarded for compensatory damages.