Jon Gruden Sues NFL, Roger Goodell Over 'Malicious and Orchestrated Campaign' That Led to His Resignation

Jon Gruden resigned as head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders last month in the wake of resurfaced emails in which he reportedly used racially charged, homophobic and profane language

jon gruden
Photo: Al Messerschmidt/Getty

Former Raiders head coach Jon Gruden is suing the NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell over the circumstances surrounding his resignation last month.

On Oct. 12, Gruden stepped down as head coach of the Las Vegas football team in the wake of resurfaced emails in which he reportedly used racially charged, homophobic and profane language.

The emails were originally gathered as part of an investigation into the Washington Football Team over allegations of toxic workplace culture.

In a statement to PEOPLE on Friday, Gruden's attorney Adam Hosmer-Henner wrote that the league and Goodell "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."

"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 concluded.

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Last month, the Wall Street Journal reported that Gruden sent an email using a racially charged insult to denigrate a Black union official. In the email, the newspaper alleges Gruden described DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the NFL Players Association, by referring to Smith's lips.

A week later, The New York Times reported that Gruden sent numerous other emails over seven years (during which he was a broadcaster for ESPN) that "casually and frequently" used homophobic language to refer to NFL officials and players.

In one email, Gruden called the league's commissioner, Goodell, a "clueless anti football p----" and insisted that he shouldn't have pressured then-Rams head coach Jeff Fisher to draft "queers," the newspaper reported.

In Gruden's lawsuit, which was filed in Clark County on Thursday and obtained by PEOPLE, attorney Hosmer-Henner alleges that the NFL and Goodell "pressured the Raiders to fire Gruden" following the WSJ's report.

"When their initial salvo did not result in Gruden's firing or resignation, Defendants ratcheted up the pressure by intimating that further documents would become public if Gruden was not fired," the complaint states. "They followed through with this threat by leaking another batch of documents to the New York Times...."

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In the complaint, Hosmer-Henner called the situation "a malicious and orchestrated campaign" against Gruden.

A spokesperson for the NFL told PEOPLE on Friday that "the allegations are entirely meritless and the NFL will vigorously defend against these claims."

The spokesperson previously called Gruden's emails "appalling, abhorrent and wholly contrary to the NFL's values."

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

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