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Gruden’s lawsuit against NFL allowed to proceed

Updated May 25, 2022 - 4:16 pm

Former Raiders coach Jon Gruden’s lawsuit against the NFL will continue to be litigated after a Las Vegas judge on Wednesday denied a motion to dismiss the case.

Gruden resigned as coach in October after racist, misogynistic and anti-LGBTQ emails he wrote were publicized by The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. He then sued the league and Roger Goodell, the NFL’s commissioner, claiming the NFL and Goodell were negligent and intentionally interfered with his contract by leaking the emails in an attempt to ruin his career and reputation.

In court documents filed in January, Goodell and the NFL argued that Gruden is deflecting blame from himself for the ramifications he faced after the emails were made public, and that the case should be dismissed. Some of the emails included derogatory language directed at Goodell.

The NFL has denied that the league or Goodell were responsible for the emails becoming public and has contended it would have fired Gruden had he not stepped down.

After a hearing of nearly 90 minutes Wednesday, District Judge Nancy Allf denied the motion to dismiss Gruden’s lawsuit. Gruden attended but declined to answer questions following the hearing.

“I’m going to let the process take care of itself,” he said. “Go Raiders.”

Adam Hosmer-Henner, one of Gruden’s lawyers, repeatedly argued Wednesday that the lawsuit was not about Gruden’s emails, but rather the actions Gruden said the NFL and Goodell took to pressure the Raiders into firing him.

Gruden’s emails were some of about 650,000 messages collected by independent investigators during an investigation into workplace conditions and alleged sexual harassment surrounding the Washington Commanders. Hosmer-Henner said Wednesday that Gruden’s lawyers have not been able to access all of the emails collected.

“When you produce a small section of that archive of emails, you make Jon Gruden look to be the only person who’s communicating in this fashion in the entire NFL,” Hosmer-Henner said.

Shortly after Gruden resigned, The Associated Press reported that the NFL did not find that any other team or league personnel had sent emails similar to the messages Gruden wrote, according to a source familiar with the investigation.

Kannon Shanmugam, who represented the NFL and Goodell, argued that Gruden has not proved that the commissioner or the league tried to pressure the Raiders into firing Gruden.

“It is wholly unreasonable to infer that Commissioner Goodell specifically intended to interfere with Gruden’s contracts simply because Gruden used derogatory terms to refer to him,” Shanmugam said.

The NFL’s lawyers wrote in court documents that the league has “an existing right to cancel Gruden’s contract and that they — along with society at large — have an unequivocal interest in rooting racism, sexism and homophobia out of professional football.”

Gruden disputed the statement in court documents filed in March, and accused the NFL of appearing “quite foolish” in light of a February lawsuit filed by former Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores, which alleged racism in the NFL’s hiring practices.

The NFL and Goodell also had submitted a motion for the case to be arbitrated outside court. Gruden has argued that since he is no longer an NFL employee, the case should not be arbitrated under the league’s constitution.

Gruden’s lawyers also have written that arbitration would be unfair because Goodell would have “unlimited authority to determine the scope and procedure of the arbitration.”

Allf appeared to agree with Gruden when she dismissed the motion to compel arbitration.

“I’m concerned with the commissioner having the sole power to determine any employee disputes,” the judge said.

In a statement sent to the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Wednesday, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the league believes the case should have been sent to arbitration, and that it intends to appeal the judge’s decision.

“The court’s denial of our motion to dismiss is not a determination on the merits of Coach Gruden’s lawsuit, which, as we have said from the outset, lacks a basis in law and fact and proceeds from a false premise — neither the NFL nor the commissioner leaked Coach Gruden’s offensive emails,” McCarthy wrote.

Contact Katelyn Newberg at knewberg@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0240. Follow @k_newberg on Twitter. Review-Journal staff writers Mick Akers, Vincent Bonsignore and Adam Hill contributed to this report.

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