“A Soviet-style character assassination” claims the former coach
Former Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden is suing the NFL and Roger Goodell, claiming the league and commissioner sought to destroy his career and reputation through a “malicious and orchestrated campaign”, per the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s David Ferrara.
Gruden resigned as the Raiders head coach last month after a series of racist, homophobic and misogynistic emails of his were leaked to the press. The emails were discovered through the NFL’s investigation of the Washington Football Team’s workplace misconduct, which included digging through over 650,000 emails. Despite the large volume of messages, the coach’s are the only ones that have made their way to the media, and that’s a major basis of his claim.
NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero was able to obtain a statement from Gruden’s attorney, Adam Hosmer-Henner:
“Jon Gruden has filed suit against the National Football League and Commissioner Goodell in the Eighth Judicial District Court in Clark County, Nevada. 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 one 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.”
The lawsuit refers to the situation as “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 … to cause maximum damage to Gruden.”
Per Tashan Reed of The Athletic, the lawsuit describes 7 causes of action that claim Gruden has damages “in excess of $15,000.00” each. It also asks for “exemplary and punitive damages in an amount no less than three times the amount awarded to [Gruden] for compensatory damages.”
While it doesn’t excuse what he said, Gruden does have a good point that it seems fishy the only disparaging messages that became public knowledge were his. Especially considering this situation stems from an investigation of an organization that the league deemed corrupt enough to fine $10 million back in July.
However, speculation – even if it is logical – won’t hold up in court and it’ll be up to Gruden’s legal team to actually prove the NFL and Goodell are singling him out and are the ones that leaked the emails, which could be difficult.
Lindsay Jones of The Athletic was able to get a statement from Brian McCarthy, the league’s Vice President of Communications on the matter: “The allegations are entirely meritless and the NFL will vigorously defend against these claims.”
Even though the two parties are technically no longer associated with one another, the Raiders could play a major role in Gruden’s case. Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio noted that if the Raiders are specifically named as defendants, the NFL won’t be able to remove the case from state court to federal court. Doing so would be common practice by out-of-state interests that hope to avoid possible “home cooking” from elected state-court judges.
Of course, this is an ongoing matter that likely won’t end anytime soon, and we’ll continue to provide updates as they become available.