LAS VEGAS -- The NFL lost a bid Wednesday to scuttle a lawsuit by former Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden accusing the league of a “malicious and orchestrated campaign” to force him to resign last October, including the leaking of offensive emails he wrote.
A Nevada judge ruled against the league on two key issues in a legal battle pitting the coach who departed the Raiders with more than six seasons remaining on his record 10-year, $100 million contract against NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
Attorneys for both sides declined to comment following a 90-minute hearing, although Gruden emerged from the courtroom declaring “Go Raiders.” He told reporters as he walked to an elevator that he hoped his case against the league and Goodell would play out.
Goodell did not attend the hearing in the civil contract interference and conspiracy case.
Clark County District Court Judge Nancy Allf refused requests by league attorney Kannon Shanmugam to dismiss Gruden’s claim outright or to let the league move the dispute to arbitration, where it could be overseen by Goodell outside public view.
The league has a responsibility to act, the league attorney argued, in cases involving “conduct detrimental to the best interest of the league or professional football.”
Gruden attorney Adam Hosmer-Henner characterized the idea of putting decisions in Goodell’s hands as an “unconscionable” conflict-of-interest.
Gruden accuses the NFL and Goodell of destroying his career and scuttling endorsement contracts by releasing emails that no one disputes Gruden sent — and that Shanmugam told the judge contained “racist, misogynistic and homophobic” language unfit for repetition in a public courtroom.
The emails came from among some 650,000 electronic messages obtained by the league almost a year ago during a probe of the workplace culture of the Washington NFL franchise now called the Commanders.
The messages were sent from 2011 to 2018 to several people including former Washington team owner Bruce Allen.
Gruden was an announcer at ESPN at the time, after coaching in the NFL from 1990 to 2008, including head coaching stints with the Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Hosmer-Henner complained that Gruden’s emails were selectively leaked to force Gruden out as head coach of the Raiders, where he had been hired again in 2018, the team’s first year in Las Vegas.
“They pressured the Raiders to fire him,” Hosmer-Henner said. “And when the Raiders didn’t, and he coached through that weekend, (the league) continued to threaten that more documents would be leaked.”
Gruden coached the Raiders on Oct. 10, two days after the Wall Street Journal reported he had used a racist term to describe NFL union chief DeMaurice Smith. Gruden resigned the following day, shortly after The New York Times revealed additional offensive emails.
Raiders owner Mark Davis said later that month the team reached a settlement with Gruden over the final six-plus years of his contract. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.