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Former Raiders coach sues NFL and Roger Goodell for leaking controversial emails

Jon Gruden claims the NFL and Goodell carried out “Soviet-style character assassination” to force him to resign

Former head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders Jon Gruden sued the National Football League and its commissioner Roger Goodell on Thursday alleging they wrongfully released confidential emails that led to controversy and Gruden’s resignation.

Gruden claims in the complaint filed in a Las Vegas-based state court that the NFL and Goodell sought to obliterate Gruden’s career and reputation “through a malicious and orchestrated campaign.” Gruden resigned from his post last month after emails decried as racist, misogynistic and homophobic resurfaced.

According to the complaint, these emails were unearthed during an investigation into sexual harassment and abuse allegations at the Washington Football Team. Gruden claims Goodell and the NFL held onto the emails for months before they were leaked to the national media. In the complaint, Gruden refers to the purported effort by Goodell and the NFL as “Soviet-style character assassination.”

Gruden's suit claims he was singled-out and held to a different standard, arguing that of the 650,000 emails obtained during the investigation, only a tiny fraction of those written were "weaponized" against Gruden. Gruden maintains throughout the complaint that the emails gathered during the investigation were supposed to remain confidential.

"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,” Adam Hosmer-Henner, attorney at McDonald Carano for
Jon Gruden, said in a statement.

Gruden claims the documents were leaked by Goodell and the NFL in the midst of the Raiders’ season to maximize the attention and force Gruden to resign. All the while, Gruden says the organization protected the Washington Football Team, asserting that the consequences for that team and its owner Daniel Snyder were minimal and largely swept under the rug. The team was ordered to pay a $10 million fine referred to in Gruden's complaint as "paltry" and Snyder was assigned to sensitivity training.

The emails at issue were sent from 2011 to 2018, before Gruden began coaching the Raiders during a period when he was not employed by the NFL. In some of the emails, Gruden used homophobic slurs to describe Goodell. Gruden's statements were widely criticized as sexist, racist, transphobic and homophobic.

The complaint outlines "immense" damages, including the loss of the balance of Gruden's $100 million contract, which was to extend through the 2027 season. Gruden also claims that the leaking by the NFL and Goodell cost him lucrative endorsement deal and sponsorships, including a contract with Skechers and an appearance in the video game Madden NFL 2022.

Among Gruden’s formal claims are that the NFL and Goodell interfered with his contractual relationships, future employment prospects and economic opportunities, engaged in civil conspiracy and exercised negligence in the hiring of the investigators who conducted the Washington Football Team probe. He is seeking punitive damages.

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