Jon Gruden sues NFL, Roger Goodell over resignation; alleges 'Soviet-style character assassination'

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Jon Gruden filed a lawsuit against the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell in Nevada district court on Thursday, alleging they leaked private emails to The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal to force him out of a head coaching job with the Las Vegas Raiders.

Gruden is seeking damages on seven different claims as well as punitive damages and lawyer fees.

Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden looks on against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the Raiders final game at the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum before relocating to Las Vegas for the 2020 season.
(Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden speaks on his headset during the first half of a game against the Chicago Bears, Sunday, Oct. 10, 2021, in Las Vegas.
(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

“In contrast to the formalities of the Washington Football Team investigation, defendants’ treatment of Gruden was a Soviet-style character assassination. There was no warning and no process. Defendants held the emails for months until they were leaked to the national media in the middle of the Raiders’ season in order to cause maximum damage to Gruden,” the complaint states.

The NFL responded to the lawsuit Friday.

“The allegations are entirely meritless, and the NFL will vigorously defend against these claims,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said.

Gruden and the Raiders parted ways last month after a litany of emails were leaked and published in The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. Gruden exchanged racist and misogynistic messages with then-Washington team president Bruce Allen while working for ESPN. 

The leaked messages created a firestorm and led to Gruden losing his job with the Raiders.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell looks on before the Las Vegas Raiders play against the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium on Oct. 4, 2021, in Inglewood, Calif. 
(Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

It has remained unclear who leaked the emails to the outlets. The NFL and Washington team owner Daniel Snyder have both been accused of leaking the messages, and both have denied doing so.

Gruden apologized for his comments about NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith and other remarks he made in the emails with Allen. The complaint also made note of support Gruden received from former NFL stars Randall Cunningham and Tim Brown, who are both Black.

The NFL had been called on by the House Oversight Committee to provide documents pertaining to the investigation for its own probe into how the league handled the Washington scandal but failed to do so by the deadline set by Reps. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., and Carolyn B. Maloney, D-N.Y.

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