Gruden’s Offensive Game Plan Claiming He Is the Victim of an NFL Conspiracy Is Offensive to Those He Victimized

Dec 3, 2021

By Robert Romano, JD LLM and Senior Writer

On November 11, 2021, one month after resigning as the head coach for the Las Vegas Raiders, Jon Gruden filed a federal lawsuit against the National Football League (NFL) and its Commissioner Roger Goodell, together with ten additional unnamed individuals and ten additional unnamed entities, in the U.S. District Court, Clark County, Nevada. Per his seven-count complaint, the disgraced former coach alleges a series of causes of action including Intentional Interference with Contractual Relations, Tortious Interference with Prospective Economic Advantage, Negligence, Negligent Hiring, Negligent Supervision, Civil Conspiracy, and Aiding and Abetting – all stemming from what he describes as a malicious and orchestrated campaign by Commissioner Roger Goodell to destroy both his career and reputation.[1]

Gruden resigned after a series of homophobic, misogynistic, and racist emails he wrote targeting Commissioner Goodell, NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith, former NFL openly gay player Michael Sam, together with a number of other NFL owners, coaches, cheerleaders, and media personalities were published in both The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. In a press release dated October 11, 2021, Gruden publicly apologized stating, “I have resigned as Head Coach of the Las Vegas Raiders. I love the Raiders and do not want to be a distraction. Thank you to all the players, coaches, staff and fans of Raider Nation. I’m sorry, I never meant to hurt anyone”[2] Soon after his resignation, Gruden, who returned to the Raiders for the 2018 season after agreeing to a 10-year, $100 million contract, reached an undisclosed ‘buy-out’ settlement for the remaining balance owed to him by the organization.

But now, maybe because of buyer’s remorse or just because he suffered a wounded ego, Gruden claims addition monies are owed to him because he is the victim of a conspiracy initiated by Commissioner Goodell, the person with whom he alleges authorized the emails to be leaked to the media so that the team would be pressured into firing him.[3]

By way of background, while investigating numerous workplace misconduct accusations involving the Washington Football Team, the NFL discovered Gruden’s ‘problematic’, to say the least, emails in correspondence between himself and then Washington Football Team president, Bruce Allen. These exchanges occurred prior to Gruden returning to the NFL in 2018, at a time when he was under contract with ESPN. Those emails, however, according to Gruden, represented only a fraction of approximately 650,000 reportedly reviewed by the NFL and were allegedly leaked to the national media by the NFL purposefully, on two separate occasions, and during the midst of the Raiders’ season, in order to cause maximum damage to Gruden and his reputation.[4]

Gruden claims that the NFL and Commissioner Goodell’s act of leaking those emails was done, first, to distract the American sport public from the controversy involving the Washington Football Team, but also because Commissioner Goodell was vengeful because a number of the leaked emails contain insulting and derogatory language about the Commissioner and his handling of various issues concerning the NFL. Gruden asserts that as a consequence of this ‘malicious’ act, i.e. the releasing his emails to the media, he suffered ‘massive financial damages’ including losing the balance of monies owed per his $100 million contract with the Raiders, together with losses from endorsement agreements with Skechers apparel company and Madden NFL 2022 video game.[5]

According to Gruden’s Lawyer Adam Hosmer-Henner, “There is no explanation or justification for why Gruden’s emails were the only ones made public out of the 650,000 emails collected in the NFL’s investigation of the Washington Football Team or for why the emails were held for months before being released in the middle of the Raiders’ season.”[6]

What Gruden and his legal team fail to acknowledge, however, is that his own actions were the cause for what ultimately led to his resignation. Gruden thwarts any and all responsibility by failing to recognize that the language he used to describe DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the Players Association, in that email to Bruce Allen was racist and degrading, the product of which cannot be tolerated in today’s society or within a professional sport league where almost 60% of the players are African American. Gruden fails to understand that forwarding pictures of topless Washington FootballTeam Cheerleaders, taken without their consent, while borderline illegal, also objectifies and denigrates women. By suggesting the Rams Organization was pressured by the League into drafting Michael Sam, a gay defensive lineman, is antigay. That chastising the NFL for hiring and promoting female officials is misogynistic. That calling for African American players to be fired for taking a knee to protest police brutality and systemic racism is in itself racist, or that using a number of gay slurs when referring to Commissioner Goodell is homophobic. And then, after all of these emails come to the attention of the public, by whatever means, to then claim to be the victim is offensive, distasteful, and contrary to any form of reasonable thought for those who were directly involved as well as those who weren’t.

For Gruden to accuse the NFL of conspiring, and its employees of aiding and abetting in such conspiracy, to leak the sexist, misogynistic, and anti-gay emails in a way that interferes with the contractual relations he had with the Raiders and other companies fails to make either logical or legal sense. Gruden must deal with the reality that the only reason the Raiders wanted him as its head coach, and that Skechers and Madden NFL 2022 wanted him to endorse their products, was because they didn’t know who he really was as a person. Now they know and now they don’t want anything to do with him. The NFL didn’t destroy his career or reputation, nor did it interfere with his contractual relationships with these organizations, it just let the world see who he really was when behind closed doors. Gruden destroyed his own career and reputation and any ‘contractual interference’ is not because of leaked emails, but because these organizations realized he was a bigoted, sexist, homophobe.

In the end, Gruden is not the victim. He is a petulant child who got caught, and instead of taking responsibly wants to go on the offensive and blame everyone else but himself for his own actions. He needs to take his ball, and his lawsuit, and go home.

[1] Case No: A-1-844043-B Department 27, page 1, paragraph 1.

[2] Case No: A-1-844043-B Department 27, page 3, paragraph 9, and

[3] Case No: A-1-844043-B Department 27, page 2, paragraph 5.

[4] Case No: A-1-844043-B Department 27, page 2, paragraph 4.

[5] Case No: A-1-844043-B Department 27, page 14, paragraph 71.


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