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Jon Gruden sues NFL for allegedly leaking emails that led to his resignation

Jon Gruden, pictured in 2018, is suing the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell.
John Hefti
Jon Gruden, pictured in 2018, is suing the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Former Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden is suing the N.F.L. and its commissioner, Roger Goodell, for what Gruden's lawyers say was a concerted effort by the league to ruin his career.

Gruden resigned as coach of the Raiders a month ago after homophobic, misogynistic, and racist emails he wrote were published by The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday in the Eighth Judicial District Court in Clark County, Nev., accuses the league and Goodell of engaging in "a malicious and orchestrated campaign" against Gruden, alleging that officials intentionally leaked the emails during the middle of the Raiders' season to inflict "maximum damage" on Gruden and his team.

The Journal first reported that Gruden used racist tropes to denigrate DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the NFL Players Association, on Oct. 8. When the head coach remained in his position after the Journal report, the league "ratcheted up the pressure,'' by threatening to make more evidence public if the Raiders failed to terminate Gruden. The suit alleges that the league leaked more communications to the Times, which published its report on Oct. 11.

Gruden resigned hours after.

The NFL discovered the problematic emails during an investigation into workplace misconduct accusations against the Washington Football Team. The disparaging remarks were made during exchanges with Washington Football Team president Bruce Allen as well as others during Gruden's stretch as an ESPN commentator, prior to returning to coaching in 2018.

Those emails represented a fraction of roughly 650,000 messages reportedly reviewed by the NFL, which in July determined that the workplace environment in Washington was "highly unprofessional" and perpetuated bullying and intimidation. Washington was fined $10 million, but the league released only a short summary of the investigation — not a full accounting.

"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 N.F.L.'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, one of Gruden's lawyers, said in a statement.

The NFL did not immediately respond to NPR's request for comment. NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy told CNN: "The allegations are entirely meritless and the NFL will vigorously defend against these claims."

In the aftermath of Gruden's resignation, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — who earned their first Super Bowl title with Gruden as head coach — removed his name from their Ring of Honor at Raymond James Stadium.

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