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Judge denies NFL’s motions to dismiss Jon Gruden’s lawsuit, move it to arbitration

Jon Gruden appears in court Wednesday in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
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A judge in Nevada allowed former Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden’s lawsuit against the NFL to proceed Wednesday, denying separate motions by the league to dismiss the case or force it into arbitration.

District Judge Nancy L. Allf made the rulings at a hearing Wednesday attended by Gruden.

The NFL said it would appeal.

“We believe Coach Gruden’s claims should have been compelled to arbitration, and we will file an appeal of the Court’s determination,” league spokesman Brian McCarthy said in a statement. “The Court’s denial of our motion to dismiss is not a determination on the merits of Coach Gruden’s lawsuit, which, as we have said from the outset, lacks a basis in law and fact and proceeds from a false premise — neither the NFL nor the Commissioner leaked Coach Gruden’s offensive emails.”

According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Gruden declined to answer questions from the media following the hearing but said: “I’m going to let the process take care of itself. Go Raiders.”

Gruden filed his lawsuit in November in the Eighth Judicial District Court in Clark County, Nev. It accused the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell of using leaked emails to “publicly sabotage Gruden’s career” and pressure him into resigning from his coaching job in October.

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“Through a malicious and orchestrated campaign, the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell sought to destroy the career and reputation of Jon Gruden, the former head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders,” Gruden’s attorneys wrote in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit also alleged the league and Goodell utilized “a Soviet-style character assassination” against Gruden.

The league and Goodell asked the court in January to dismiss the lawsuit. The NFL said that it did not leak the emails that led to Gruden’s resignation and contended Gruden “has no one to blame but himself” for any damage he incurred. The league wrote then that Gruden “primarily assumed the risk” that his emails could be “possessed and distributed” by the Washington Football Team, among others.

“Despite the clear risk that his emails would be forwarded, downloaded, printed, or otherwise monitored by any recipient workplace domain ... Gruden proceeded to send profane, misogynistic, homophobic, and racist emails out to a group of individuals, including to a WFT-hosted email address,” the NFL’s attorneys wrote in January. “As such, Gruden primarily assumed the risk that his emails could be circulated beyond the original recipient group, and possessed and distributed by the WFT, NFL and others.”

Gruden resigned following reports that he used racist, homophobic and misogynistic language in emails over a span of approximately seven years before he agreed to return to the NFL in 2018 as coach of the Raiders. The emails were sent to Bruce Allen — the former president of Washington’s NFL team, now named the Commanders — and others while Gruden worked for ESPN. The emails were gathered as part of the NFL’s investigation led by attorney Beth Wilkinson into the Washington team’s workplace.

Tanya Snyder, the co-CEO of the Commanders who has been in control of the franchise’s daily operations since last July, told fellow NFL owners during a league meeting in October in New York that the leaks did not originate with her or her husband, Daniel Snyder, the franchise’s principal owner, multiple people familiar with the situation said at the time.

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