Former Raiders coach Jon Gruden files lawsuit against the NFL and Roger Goodell

Jon Gruden
FILE – In this Sept. 19, 2021, file photo, Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden meets with the media following an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Pittsburgh. Gruden is out as coach of the Raiders after emails he sent before being hired in 2018 contained racist, homophobic and misogynistic comments. A person familiar with the decision said Gruden is stepping down after The New York Times reported that Gruden frequently used misogynistic and homophobic language directed at Commissioner Roger Goodell and others in the NFL. (AP Photo/Don Wright, File

Jon Gruden, who resigned as head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders last month following reports of offensive emails, filed a lawsuit against the NFL and its commissioner Roger Goodell on Friday.

In the suit, which was filed in Nevada’s Clark County District Court, Gruden accuses the NFL and Goodell of “a Soviet-style character assassination.”

“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,” the lawsuit reads.

Gruden resigned days after the New York Times reported that he had sent a series of offensive emails while working as an NFL analyst and Monday Night Football commentator at ESPN from 2009 to 2017.

According to the New York Times, NFL officials conducting an investigation into allegations of workplace misconduct at the Washington Football Team — of which Gruden was not the focus — uncovered emails in which he wrote negatively about women referees, gay NFL players and players who protested during the playing of the national anthem.

Gruden also came under fire when The Wall Street Journal unearthed a 2011 email in which he made disparaging remarks about DeMaurice Smith, the head of the NFL players union.

In his lawsuit, Gruden says that the NFL protected the Washington Football Team and the organization’s owner, Daniel Snyder, by imposing “minimal” punishment on the team, including a $10 million fine announced in July.

Gruden claims the NFL and Goodell intentionally leaked emails to the press, instead of conducting a “genuine investigation.”

“While Defendants protected Snyder and the Washington Football Team, they treated Gruden far differently by selectively disclosing documents to maximize the harm to Gruden and to single him out,” the lawsuit reads.

According to the lawsuit, the NFL and Goodell pressured the Raiders to get rid of Gruden after his emails were leaked to the press, even threatening to release more if they did not.

“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 prior to his hiring by the Raiders,” the lawsuit says. “Defendants then purposefully leveraged these emails to cause the termination of Gruden’s coaching contract, endorsements, and sponsorships.”

The lawsuit says Gruden has suffered massive financial losses — including his $100 million, 10-year contract with the Raiders — as well as damage to his reputation that will “affect his future employment prospects and endorsement opportunities.”

The NFL responded to the lawsuit in a statement, saying, “The allegations are entirely meritless and the NFL will vigorously defend against these claims.”

Gruden began his second stint as the Raiders head coach in 2018. He had previously coached the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2002 to 2008, leading them to a Super Bowl win in his first season, and the then-Oakland Raiders from 1998-2001.

Jordan Freiman contributed reporting.

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