Jon Gruden resigned last month as the coach of the Las Vegas Raiders after reports emerged about a series of emails in which he was said to have used racist, misogynistic, and homophobic language. Now, Gruden is suing the NFL and its commissioner, Roger Goodell, for leaking those emails to "publicly sabotage" his job. "Through a malicious and orchestrated campaign," both the league and Goodell "sought to destroy the career and reputation of Jon Gruden," the former coach's lawyers assert in the complaint filed Thursday in Clark County, Nev., per the Washington Post.
Gruden's attorneys add that Goodell specifically carried out a "Soviet-style character assassination" on the ex-coach, with "no warning and no process" before the emails were sent to major media outlets, right in the middle of the Raiders' season "to cause maximum damage to Gruden." The suit notes the NFL pressured the Raiders to terminate Gruden and hinted "that further documents would become public if Gruden was not fired," reports ESPN. And Gruden isn't just out a job with the Raiders, per the complaint: He also lost a lucrative Skechers sponsorship deal and got yanked from the Madden NFL 22 video game.
Gruden's private emails, sent over a span of about seven years, had been recovered from about 650,000 emails swept up during the NFL's investigation into allegations of workplace misconduct by the Washington Football Team; Gruden had sent correspondence to Bruce Allen, who was then the president of that team, and others. The complaint alleges that Gruden's emails were leaked by the NFL and Goodell as an attempt "to create a distraction from the controversy" over how they'd handled allegations against the Washington team. Mike Florio, however, doesn't think that claim holds water.
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"At the time the leaks of the Gruden emails began, no one was focusing on the WFT investigation," he writes for NBC Sports. "If those emails had never come to light, the WFT investigation never would have become the controversy that it continues to be." Gruden is seeking unspecified damages on seven claims, in addition to "exemplary and punitive damages" and fees for his legal team. The NFL denies Gruden's accusations. "The allegations are entirely meritless and the NFL will vigorously defend against these claims," a league spokesman says in a statement, per the Post. (More Jon Gruden stories.)