Former Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden is suing the National Football League and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell alleging they “leaked” his emails containing racist and homophobic comments to publications like the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, forcing him to leave his job.
The lawsuit, which was filed in Clark County District Court in Nevada, alleges the NFL and Goodell created a “malicious and orchestrated campaign” against Gruden, who described it as a “Soviet-style character assassination” that eventually “forced” him to resign.
The lawsuit claims the NFL pressured the Raiders to fire Gruden after his initial emails were leaked to the Journal, and ramped up the intimidation when no action was taken by the team, threatening to release “another batch of documents” to the Times.
Gruden’s attorney told Forbes in a statement there isn’t an “explanation or justification” as to why Gruden’s emails were the “only ones made public” out of the 650,000 collected in a wider NFL investigation into the Washington Football Team’s workplace culture, or why they were released mid-season.
Gruden is seeking compensation from the NFL and Goodell for what he claims were “severe” financial damages and “harm to his career and reputation.”
The NFL told ESPN that Gruden’s claims are “meritless” and it "will vigorously defend against” them (Forbes has reached out to the NFL for comment).
$100 million. That is how much Gruden’s 10-year contract with the Raiders was worth when he signed on with them in 2018, according to the lawsuit. The contract was supposed to run through to 2027.
Gruden resigned on October 11, after the Times published emails that showed Gruden calling Goodell a “faggot” and an “anti football pussy,” and claiming Goodell pushed the Rams to hire “queers.” One week before, the Journal reported that Gruden used racist terms to describe NFL Players Association head DeMaurice Smith. The emails were reportedly obtained by the NFL as part of their investigation into allegations of workplace misconduct at the Washington Football Team, after 15 female employees reported they were sexually harassed. The NFL concluded the investigation in July and fined the team $10 million.
Following his resignation and the release of additional emails by the Times, Gruden lost an endorsement deal with Sketchers, which had been announced in January. Gruden appeared in a commercial for the brand in April.