Former Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden is suing the NFL and its commissioner, Roger Goodell, for allegedly launching a "Soviet-style character assassination" campaign intended to destroy his career and reputation.
The lawsuit, filed Thursday in the 8th Judicial District Court in Clark County, Nevada, alleges 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," Gruden's lawyer, Adam Hosmer-Henner, said in a statement.
"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,” Hosmer-Henner added.
According to the lawsuit, private emails between Gruden and former Washington Football Team general manager Bruce Allen were obtained in June during an unrelated investigation into the football team. The emails, later leaked to the Journal and Times, were sent during a seven-year period ending in 2018 and were part of a larger probe looking into allegations that 15 female employees of the Washington Football Team experienced sexual or verbal abuse.
"In contrast to the formalities of the Washington Football Team investigation, Defendants’ treatment of Gruden was a Soviet-style character assassination," according to the lawsuit. "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 vigorously denied the allegations in an emailed statement.
“The allegations are entirely meritless and the NFL will vigorously defend against these claims," he said.
Gruden resigned as coach in October, saying at the time: “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.”
"Defendants, however, did intend to hurt Gruden and they did so with unchecked hypocrisy and arrogance," the lawsuit contends.