Jon Gruden sues NFL, Roger Goodell over leaked e-mails leading to resignation

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Per a report from David Ferrara of the Las Vegas Review-Journal that has been confirmed by Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network, former Raiders head coach Jon Gruden has filed a lawsuit in Clark County (Nevada) District Court against the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Gruden resigned last month after his racist, misogynist, and homophobic e-mails gathered as part of a sexual harassments and hostile workplace environment investigation into the Washington Football Team were leaked.

In the 21-page complaint, Adam Hosmer-Henner, Gruden’s attorney, contended that “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.

“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 stated. “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.”

The lawsuit also states that the e-mail leaks constituted “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.”

In addition to the Gruden e-mails, several communiques between former Redskins and Raiders executive Bruce Allen and Jeff Pash, the NFL’s current vice president and general counsel since 1997, were leaked, revealing too-close ties between Allen and Pash that included Pash rescinding league penalties for manipulating injury reports, and confirming to Allen that the then-Redskins would not be penalized by the NFL if they stepped outside the league’s free-agency rules.

Another ethical concern regarding Pash was his decision to have the NFL take over the supposedly independent investigation into the workplace culture of the Washington franchise after it was revealed that the then-Redskins organization was rampant with bullying, intimidation, and sexual harassment. After a nearly year-long investigation, team owner Daniel Snyder was fined $10 million, and no findings were officially released.

Lisa Banks and Debra Katz, who represented 40 former employees in a statement, said that the NFL chose to “protect owner Dan Snyder” and said the fine amounted to “pocket change.” In the end, investigator Beth Wilkinson submitted her report orally to the league.

Now, Congress has pressed the NFL, and Goodell in particular, for more transparency. On October 18, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, sent a letter to Goodell requesting documents and information regarding the investigation, and what Goodell and the league have not revealed.

“The NFL has one of the most prominent platforms in America, and its decisions can have national implications,” the Chairs wrote. “The NFL’s lack of transparency about the problems it recently uncovered raise questions about the seriousness with which it has addressed bigotry, racism, sexism, and homophobia—setting troubling precedent for other workplaces. The Committee is seeking to fully understand this workplace conduct and the league’s response, which will help inform legislative efforts to address toxic work environments and workplace investigation processes; strengthen protections for women in the workplace; and address the use of non-disclosure agreements to prevent the disclosure of unlawful employment practices, including sexual harassment. We hope and trust that the NFL shares the Committee’s goal of protecting American workers from harassment and discrimination.”

To date, it has not been reported that any requested documents have been sent.

We don’t know what else is in the more than 650,000 e-mails gathered in the investigation, nor do we know what other potential testimony could blow up in the NFL’s collective face. This is why, if Gruden’s camp is amenable to a settlement that could avoid the discovery process, you could expect one similar to the award given to Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid in their collusion lawsuit against the league. Or, the settlement given to thousands of former players in their class-action suit against the NFL in which it was claimed that league personnel knew of the effects of repeated head trauma, and did not inform the players. One condition of the settlement was capped awards to individual players (which have been complicated by the NFL’s nefarious use of race-norming), and another was that the league would not have to disclose what it knew about the effects of concussions, and when those effects were understood.

If there’s one thing we know about the NFL’s recent history, it’s that those in charge would rather pay to have problems like this go away.