NFL files case to dismiss Jon Gruden lawsuit, reveals ex-coach sent offensive messages to at least 6 people
The NFL filed in Nevada state court to move former Raiders head coach Jon Gruden’s lawsuit over his leaked emails to arbitration, revealing the ex-coach also sent email correspondences offensive to at least six people. The documents strongly suggest league commissioner Roger Goodell would have unilaterally fired Gruden had the coach not resigned in October.
“Gruden sent a variety of equally obnoxious emails to half a dozen recipients over a seven-year period, in which he denounced ‘the emergence of women as referees’ and frequently used homophobic and sexist slurs to nominate then-Vice President Commissioner Goodell, President Joseph Biden, a gay professional football player recruited in 2014, and others,” the NFL wrote.
This moves the offensive emails beyond simply sending them to former Washington football team president Bruce Allen. These were sent while Gruden worked from 2011 to 2018 as a Monday Night Football commentator at ESPN. As part of the league’s investigation into sexual harassment at the WFT, more than 650,000 emails were reviewed.
In 2011, Gruden used a racist trope to refer to NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith, who is black. He wrote to Allen, “Dumboriss Smith has lips the size of Michelin tires,” according to the Wall Street Journal.
In a 2014 email to Allen, which was filed publicly as part of legal proceedings, Gruden referenced the league’s perceived pressure to hire “gay” players, an apparent reference to Michael Sam, an openly gay player trying to make the St. Louis Rams. And Gruden in other emails has used homophobic language to describe Goodell.
Gruden sued the league on November 11, alleging the league leaked the emails in revenge against him for offensive things he wrote about Goodell. The league denies leaking the emails, but wrote that it would make no sense because the leaks damaged the NFL‘s image, and Goodell could have fired Gruden anyway.
“The crux of Gruden’s complaint is that somehow the NFL or the commissioner ‘leaked’ his non-confidential emails (which were already in the hands of Gruden’s many recipients and for which Gruden had no disguised expectation of confidentiality) to, for some inexplicable reason, destroy his career and ruin his reputation, despite the fact that the emails precipitated many media stories critical of the League, and also negatively impacted the League and the Raiders midway through the football season,” the NFL wrote, and “would and could have allowed the commissioner himself to sanction and fire Gruden.
“Indeed, it would be hard to imagine conduct more detrimental to football than a football coach’s use of a racist trope to describe the leader of the NFL Players Association.”
The NFL also filed a motion to dismiss, but asked the court to stay that motion until it decides whether the matter should be referred to arbitration. Under NFL contracts, disputes must be settled by arbitration. Gruden’s argument seems to be that this situation goes beyond the bounds of normal employment disagreements.
“This action – brought by Jon Gruden to blame anyone but himself for the fallout from the publication of racist, homophobic and misogynistic emails he wrote and widely circulated – belongs to arbitration under the plain terms Gruden’s employment contract and the NFL Constitution and Bylaws to which Gruden is bound,” the NFL wrote.
The NFL argues that even if it leaked the emails, which it claims it did not, Gruden could have had no expectation of confidentiality.
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