Jon Gruden’s Case Against NFL Reaches Nevada Supreme Court over Arbitration Issue


Last week lawyers for former Raiders head coach Jon Gruden filed their response to the NFL’s appeal of a District Court’s denial of their motion to compel arbitration. The disgraced coach’s lawsuit against the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell is for the balance of the 10-year, $100 million contract he had signed with the Raiders in 2018.[2]

Gruden’s legal battle against the NFL started in November 2021, only a month after his resignation from the Raiders. He had resigned as coach the month prior after The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times published a number of racist, misogynistic and anti-LGBTQ emails that he had written. Gruden claims that the league and Goodell discovered the emails during their investigation of the Commanders and owner Daniel Snyder and subsequently leaked them to the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, in order to force him out as coach of the Raiders in an attempt to ruin his career and reputation.[3] A primary reason why Gruden claims that the NFL was behind the leaks, is due to the fact that the particular emails in question were between Gruden and then-Commanders executive Bruce Allen, and spanned between 2010 and 2018.[4] The NFL has denied being the source of the emails.

In October of last year, Nevada District Court Judge Nancy Allf denied the League’s motion for the case to be arbitrated outside of court.[5] Judge Allf claimed at the time that the NFL “must show that a valid, written agreement to arbitrate exists and encompasses the dispute at issue” and that they “failed to meet their burden” in such showing.[6] At the time, Judge Allf held that forcing Gruden into arbitration with the league would be unfair, because the NFL Constitution would allow for Goodell to act as the arbitrator in the proceeding, and because the NFL’s arbitration process is “circular” according to  Judge Allf, due to the fact that in order to proceed with arbitration, Goodell himself would first need to determine that Gruden’s conduct was “detrimental to the best interest of the NFL or professional football.”[7]

The NFL quickly appealed the District Court’s denial of their motion to compel arbitration in October to the Nevada Supreme Court, which subsequently granted Goodell and the NFL’s motion to pause the underlying lawsuit until the appeal over the arbitration process is settled.[8] Gruden’s attorneys at the time argued against the stay and believed that continuing the lawsuit into the formal discovery process would not harm the league because “the same discovery should be required in arbitration.”[9] However, halting the discovery process from potentially uncovering additional emails that might paint the NFL or Goodell himself in a bad light is one of the primary reasons why the league is so adamant to take this case to arbitration in the first place.

Last year in March, the NFL in its opening brief to the Nevada Supreme Court made two primary arguments. First, it argued that if the judge were to ultimately decided that Goodell should not act as arbitrator of the case, then the judge should allow the commissioner to appoint a different arbitrator or require him to refer the process to another third-party, rather than prevent the entire arbitration process. [10] Second, the NFL argued that since “Federal courts of appeals have required the arbitration of NFL-related disputes before the Commissioner, and, in professional sports leagues, arbitration by the league commissioner is a commonplace and widely approved and accepted practice,” the state court here should follow suit and compel Gruden to arbitration.[11]

In Gruden’s response filed just last week, his attorneys argued that because his employment agreement with the Raiders organization was terminated by his resignation in October 2021, he no longer is employed by the NFL and therefore he cannot be forced into arbitration under the NFL’s Constitution.[12] Gruden’s attorneys wrote in the filing that “The Commissioner’s authority must terminate at the same time as the coach or employee ceases to be involved with the NFL, otherwise this provision would permit the Commissioner to indefinitely exert control over former employees and potentially chill their ability to ever criticize the League or effect positive change.”[13]

While Gruden’s emails and subsequent termination from the league demonstrated that he is a flawed and hateful man, the truth of who was behind the leaks and whether or not they were potentially leaked as a diversion tactic to draw attention away from other emails that the NFL would rather keep hidden will never be known if this case plays out behind closed doors in an arbitration proceeding.

[1] Photograph:


[3] Id.



[6] Id.

[7] Id.


[9] Id.


[11] Id.


[13] Id.

Leave a Reply

Powered by

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: