Football: NFL appeals verdict in Gruden lawsuit over leaked emails | Sports

KEN RITTER Associated Press

LAS VEGAS — The NFL announced Wednesday it will appeal a decision denying a motion to move former Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden’s lawsuit against the league from a public courtroom to closed-door arbitration relocate. Gruden’s lawsuit alleges the NFL leaked his racist, sexist and homophobic emails to force him to resign last October.

“Neither the NFL nor the commissioner (Roger Goodell) leaked Coach Gruden’s abusive emails,” the league said in a statement issued after Clark County Circuit Court Judge Nancy Allf rejected league bids had to dismiss Gruden’s lawsuit outright or order out-of-court talks that could be overseen by Goodell.

The judge pointed to Gruden’s allegation that the league intentionally leaked only his documents. She said this could show evidence of a “specific intent” or action aimed at achieving a specific outcome.

The judge’s verdict in the case, filed by Gruden last November, was the first public standoff in a potentially lengthy legal battle involving the coach, who ruled the Raiders over 100 with more than six seasons remaining on his record 10-year contract million dollars, competed against Goodell.

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Lawyers for both sides declined to comment after a 90-minute hearing before Allf.

Gruden emerged from the courtroom declaring “Go Raiders” and telling reporters as he walked to an elevator that he was “just going to let the process take care of itself.”

Goodell did not attend the hearing. The civil suit alleges treaty interference and conspiracy by the League and seeks monetary damages for Gruden.

“The court’s denial of our motion to dismiss is not a determination as to the merits of Coach Gruden’s lawsuit,” said NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy.

The NFL has a responsibility to act, league attorney Kannon Shanmugam argued in court, in cases involving “conduct detrimental to the best interests of the league or professional football.”

Gruden’s attorney, Adam Hosmer-Henner, told the judge that placing the case in the hands of Goodell, a named defendant in the lawsuit, would present an “unreasonable” conflict of interest.

Hosmer-Henner also said Gruden’s contract with the Raiders — including a clause mandating arbitration to resolve disputes — was voided when he resigned. Gruden has no contract with the league, the attorney said.

Gruden accuses the NFL and Goodell of destroying his career and nullifying endorsement deals by releasing emails no one disputes that Gruden sent – and that Shanmugam told the judge they contained “racist, misogynistic and homophobic” Language unsuitable for repetition in a public courtroom. Some also allegedly mocked Goodell.

Lawyers said the electronic messages came from about 650,000 the league received nearly a year ago during an investigation into the workplace culture of the Washington-based NFL franchise, now called Commanders.

The messages were reportedly broadcast by Gruden to several people, including former Washington team owner Bruce Allen, from 2011 to 2018 while Gruden was an announcer on ESPN.

Gruden coached in the NFL from 1990 to 2008, including as head coach for the Oakland Raiders and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He was re-signed by the Raiders in 2018, the team’s first year in Las Vegas.

Hosmer-Henner did not question the validity or content of the emails. But he complained that neither Gruden’s lawyers nor the judge saw the actual messages and the public only hears reports about them in the media.

“What’s going to be a problem is (the league) … selectively leaking those emails to the press and then demanding that Mr. Gruden be fired from the Raiders,” the attorney said.

Gruden coached the Raiders on Oct. 10, two days after The Wall Street Journal reported that he had used a racist term to describe NFL union chief DeMaurice Smith. Gruden resigned the following day shortly after the New York Times published more offensive emails.

“They pressured the Raiders to fire him,” Hosmer-Henner told the judge. “And when the Raiders didn’t and he was training that weekend, (the league) kept threatening that more documents would leak.”

Raiders owner Mark Davis said in late October that the team had reached an agreement with Gruden over the last more than six years of his contract. The terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

AP Pro Football Writer Josh Dubow contributed to this report.

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