Former Las Vegas Raiders Coach and ESPN Monday Night Football Host, Jon Gruden, is suing the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell following his termination from the Las Vegas Raiders. His termination came after his private emails were leaked during the investigation of the Washington Football Team. Just a few weeks after his termination, Gruden has filed suit against the NFL and Goodell seeking unspecified damages on seven claims, as well as punitive awards and attorneys’ fees.
According to Gruden’s attorney, “the complaint alleges the defendants selectively leaked Gruden’s private correspondence to The Wall Street Journal and New York Times in order to harm Gruden’s reputation and force him out of his job.” Over 650,000 emails were collected in the NFL’s investigation of the Washington Football Team. Out of those emails, Gruden’s were the only ones made public. The lawsuit says the NFL pressured the Raiders to terminate Gruden and implied further documents would become public if Gruden was not fired. Repercussions following Gruden’s termination included the loss of a sponsorship deal with Sketchers, being pulled from appearing in Madden 22, as well as having future employment and endorsement opportunities damaged.
The Wall Street Journal first reported Gruden’s racist, anti-gay and misogynistic emails on October 8, exposing one of his emails that had racist remarks against NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith. On October 11, The New York Times reported more of Gruden’s emails, which led to his resignation that evening. The emails were spread out over seven years while Gruden was working as an analyst for Monday Night Football.
What is overlooked in this case are the potential ramifications for the NFL and other high level executives. Litigation opens the door for discovery, which can open the door to embarrassment about misconduct among additional parties whose information is put under the microscope. Major sports leagues always do everything in their power to guard private information and control the narrative, but it will be difficult in this case for them to do so. If Gruden can successfully get his case to the discovery stage, his team could ask the league to turn over the rest of the 650,000 emails that were a part of the Washington Football Team investigation. If it gets to this point, the importance of this case may not be who wins and loses, but whose private business gets put in the public eye throughout the process.