Former Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden filed a lawsuit against the NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell on Thursday in Nevada, court records show.
In a statement to USA TODAY Sports on Friday, an attorney for Gruden said 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.”
Gruden resigned as head coach of the Raiders after emails he sent over the previous decade, while he was employed by ESPN as the “Monday Night Football” analyst, became public last month. The emails were uncovered as part of the league’s investigation into the Washington Football Team’s alleged toxic workplace culture, which concluded over the summer and included no written report.
In the emails, Gruden used racist, misogynistic and homophobic language.
“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,” said the statement from Adam Hosmer-Henner, listed as one of six active attorneys retained by Gruden on the filing through the Nevada-based firm McDonald Carano.
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told USA TODAY Sports on Friday: “The allegations are entirely meritless, and the NFL will vigorously defend against these claims.”
The 21-page lawsuit, obtained by USA TODAY Sports, claims the “defendants attempted to create a distraction from the controversy over their handling of the Washington Football Team investigation by misusing documents from that investigation to publicly sabotage Gruden’s career” – first by leaking the email in which Gruden conjured a racist image to describe players’ union executive director DeMaurice Smith, who is Black.
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The lawsuit details the public opinion harm done to Gruden and notes his loss of $10 million annual salary and sponsorships (such as Skechers).
“Defendants weaponized a small subset (of emails) 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.”
Gruden seeks damages in excess of $15,000 for each of the seven claims filed.