The NFL has vowed to vigorously defend itself against the claims made by former Raiders coach Jon Gruden. Look or that defense to begin with the NFL attempting to get the case into the most favorable forum possible.
The league undoubtedly will remove the case from state court to federal court, arguing that none of the defendants sued by Gruden are residents of Nevada. Yes, Gruden’s lawsuit contends that the NFL is a “resident” of Nevada because one of its member clubs plays there, and because “it does business here and derives substantial revenue from its contacts with Nevada.” The NFL likely will say that doesn’t matter, that the NFL itself isn’t a resident of Nevada and that no Nevada-based party has been named as a defendant.
Federal law authorizes the removal of litigation from state court to federal court when an in-state defendant sues out-of-state parties in recognition of the reality that a state-based court will have a bias toward state-based plaintiffs suing out-of-state interests. Because the question of whether a case is litigated in state or federal court can in many situations determine the outcome of a case, it makes sense for the NFL to exercise its right to take the case to federal court. Gruden would then be required to initiate a fight aimed at getting the case returned to state court.
Regardless of whether the case proceeds in state or federal court, look for the NFL to find a way to argue that Gruden has an obligation, under either his contract or general NFL policies, to pursue any grievances through an internal arbitration process. Gruden’s lawyers will fight that claim, and the outcome will resolve whether a jury decides the case, or whether a single person — an arbitrator — resolves it.
Whenever the dust settles on where and how the case will be handled, the NFL could try to argue that the settlement agreement that reportedly resolved Gruden’s contract with the Raiders prevents a lawsuit against the NFL. That argument will be driven by the precise language of the waiver in the settlement agreement and the law applicable to its interpretation, including whether the document specifically preserves Gruden’s ability to sue the league, but not the Raiders.
Of course, the league is the Raiders, along with the other 31 teams. Thus, no matter what the settlement agreement states, it will be no surprise if the NFL argues that any waiver of the Raiders counts as a waiver of the NFL.
It likely will take months to conclude these preliminary battles between Gruden and the NFL. The resolution of those and any other threshold issues will influence significantly whether Gruden or the NFL will prevail on the question of whether the league violated his legal rights through the alleged leaks of emails he sent to former Washington Football Team executive Bruce Allen.