Friday's NFL: Gruden sues league over publication of his offensive emails

Josh Dubow
Associated Press

Former Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden has sued Commissioner Roger Goodell and the NFL, alleging that a “malicious and orchestrated campaign” was used to destroy Gruden's career by leaking old emails he had sent that included racist, misogynistic and homophobic comments.

The suit was filed in district court in Clark County, Nevada, on Thursday, exactly a month after Gruden resigned as Raiders coach following the publication of his emails by the Wall Street Journal and New York Times.

FILE - The suit was filed in district court in Clark County, Nevada, on Thursday, exactly a month after Gruden (pictured) resigned as Raiders coach following the publication of his emails by the Wall Street Journal and New York Times.

The emails sent to former Washington Football Team executive Bruce Allen from 2011 to 2018 during Gruden's time as an announcer at ESPN included racist, misogynistic and homophobic comments. They came from a set of 650,000 emails obtained by the league in June during an investigation into the workplace culture of the Washington Football Team.

Gruden's attorney, Adam Hosmer-Henner, said in a statement that 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.”

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“In contrast to the formalities of the Washington Football Team investigation, Defendants’ treatment of Gruden was a Soviet-style character assassination,” the lawsuit alleges. “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.”

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy denied the charges.

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

The Wall Street Journal reported on Oct. 8 that Gruden used a racist term to describe NFL union chief DeMaurice Smith.

The suit says that NFL pressured the Raiders to fire Gruden after the release of that email and “intimated that further documents would become public if Gruden was not fired.”

Gruden coached two days later and then on Oct. 11 the New York Times revealed additional offensive emails. Gruden then resigned less than halfway through the fourth year of his 10-year, $100 million contract with the Raiders.

Mark Davis, owner of the Las Vegas Raiders, leaves the NFL owners meeting in New York, Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021.

Raiders owner Mark Davis said last month that he had reached a settlement with Gruden over the final six-plus years of his contract. Davis did not reveal the terms of the settlement.

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The lawsuit said Gruden lost a sponsorship deal with Skechers and was pulled from appearing in the Madden NFL 2022 video game, as well as having future employment and endorsement prospects damaged.

Gruden is seeking unspecified damages on seven claims, as well as punitive damages and attorneys’ fees.

Monday Night Mannings has been a big success for ESPN

ESPN's pursuit of Peyton Manning to be a part of “Monday Night Football” has paid off ... albeit in an unorthodox manner that no one could have predicted.

Not only has the Hall of Fame quarterback made the most of a forum where he doesn't have to worry about jockeying for time in a three-man booth, but he also has brought his brother Eli along for the ride.

The Manningcast — or as ESPN calls it “Monday Night Football with Peyton and Eli” — has drawn rave reviews, along with plenty of viewers. The five Manningcasts on ESPN2 are averaging 1.59 million viewers. The most recent one, the Nov. 1 game between the New York Giants and Kansas City Chiefs, averaged 1.96 million, which is the largest audience ever for an ESPN alternate telecast.

Peyton Manning, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2021, gives a thumbs-up as he speaks during the induction ceremony.

“The interesting thing is they are doing it on their terms,” said Neal Pilson, the former president of CBS Sports who now runs his own sports television consulting company. "Many thought they would be good analysts, but this has gone probably better than some people anticipated.”

The Mannings' foray into broadcasting has been the top story in what has been a strong first half of the season for the NFL on TV. Games are averaging 16.4 million TV and digital viewers, which is the highest average through Week 9 since 2015 and up 9% over last year. It is also a 2% gain over 2019.

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It was expected that the audience would increase after last season was played in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, with empty stadiums presenting a strange viewing dynamic, and many people’s viewing habits changing. The first half of the season also occurred in the midst of a presidential campaign, when some were watching cable news channels.

“The response from teammates, fans, and the league has been really cool," Eli Manning said. "The show is fun because I am doing what I love. I spent my entire childhood watching football alongside Peyton, so we’ve had some practice at this.

"We’re trying to educate fans when we can, but mostly we’re just trying to entertain them and enjoy the game.”

The Manningcast is a partnership between ESPN and Peyton Manning's Omaha Productions. This is the first of a three-year deal for them to do 10 games per season. It resumes this week when the Los Angeles Rams visit the San Francisco 49ers along with the Nov. 22 game between the New York Giants and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

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Extra points

... Cleveland Browns' star running back Nick Chubb will miss Sunday's game against the Patriots after testing positive for COVID-19 earlier this week and then not passing protocols in time to be eligible to play.

... Quarterback Kyler Murray was back at practice on Friday, potentially giving the Arizona Cardinals a boost heading into Sunday's home game against the Carolina Panthers.

... Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson said he’s ready to return this week after missing the team’s past three games following surgery on the middle finger on his throwing hand.