Jon Gruden’s lawsuit raises several different claims against the NFL, Goodell

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In the 21-page lawsuit filed by former Raiders coach Jon Gruden against the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell, Gruden does what plaintiffs in civil cases often do. He has advanced every potential legal theory that the facts and circumstances may support.

As expected, Gruden leads with a claim for intentional interference with contractual relations. Gruden claims that the leaks of his emails to former Washington Football Team executive Bruce Allen caused Raiders owner Mark Davis to force Gruden to resign.

It’s arguably Gruden’s best claim. If the supposedly secret WFT investigation emails had been kept secret — if the NFL had sent them to Davis and to Davis only — Davis quite possibly wouldn’t have fired Gruden. (It will be helpful to Gruden if Davis eventually admits that in open court.)

That approach best compartmentalizes the content of Gruden’s emails and the manner in which the emails were used against him. If the league had not leaked the emails to the media, Gruden arguably could have continued to coach the Raiders.

Gruden, in his second count, alleges that the NFL and Goodell tortiously interfered with his future economic interests. Basically, he claims that leaking the emails necessarily dissuades others from doing business with him moving forward. Also, this claim potentially encompasses the contract Gruden may have signed with the Raiders beyond his 10-year, $100 million deal.

The third count alleges negligence generally against the NFL and Goodell. This potentially becomes the primary fallback argument to the notion that the league or Goodell deliberately leaked the emails. Although the negligence count reiterates the contention that the emails were selectively leaked, Gruden claims that the NFL had a duty to safeguard the WFT emails, and that the league failed to exercise reasonable care to prevent the documents from getting out.

That’s a compelling and commonsensical claim. The league can insist all it wants that it didn’t deliberately leak the Gruden emails. But the truth is that something happened to result in the Gruden emails making their way out from behind Big Shield. Someone mishandled them. Someone leaked them. Someone allowed them to be put in a position that resulted in the documents being leaked.

There’s a doctrine in the law known as res ipsa loquitur. Latin for “the thing speaks for itself,” it means that, in certain cases, the mere occurrence becomes proof that negligence occurred. In this case, the NFL’s stubborn insistence that nothing from the investigation would be disclosed coupled with the fact that a handful of pages were provided to the media suggests that something screwy transpired.

The next claim alleges negligent hiring by the league. The argument boils down to a claim that the league entrusted these sensitive matters to people who failed to protect them. This dovetails with the fifth claim, that the NFL negligently supervised the employees responsible for handling the sensitive information.

The sixth claim accuses the NFL and Goodell of engaging in a civil conspiracy to engineer Gruden’s forced resignation. In other words, he contends that multiple people came together and planned to take Gruden out.

Whether the evidence will support Gruden’s various claims depends on the documents and testimony developed during the discovery process. Through it all, one fact is undeniable. Confidential emails that the league had collected and selected for submission to the Raiders ended up escaping the league’s custody and ending Gruden’s NFL coaching career.

It makes sense for Gruden to aggressively pursue how it happened. Even though he got what he deserves for the sentiments expressed in the emails, that doesn’t give the NFL a license to selectively weaponize a few of the pages while concealing the rest of them.

That’s what bothers plenty of people. Gruden, who wasn’t even employed by any NFL team, became the only person to be held accountable for the 10-month investigation into years of misconduct at the Washington Football Team. If nothing else, Gruden’s lawsuit quite possibly will expose plenty of things that the league would prefer to keep secret.

15 responses to “Jon Gruden’s lawsuit raises several different claims against the NFL, Goodell

  1. He’s got a decent case here. This could also open up the league to having to disclose a lot of other things they’d rather not disclose. Gruden isn’t hard up for money. If he wants to be vindictive (like the league possibly was), he could refuse to settle.

  2. He’s definitely the side attraction or total diversion. You mean to tell the world that this was the only thing you can come up with after a year of investigating WFT or WTF?

  3. I think the most damaging piece of evidence he has is that only his emails were released. Just one to start with and when it looked like he would survive that more were released.

  4. Gruden is a dirtbag but the fact that the league outed him and no one else, which the treasure trove of emails undoubtedly has plenty of bad things in them, shows he was targeted while they are protecting who knows how many other people. And those being protected certainly include owners, Goodell, people in the league office, possibly other coaches.

    And it may well have been Goodell targeting him since he would not have been happy with the comment Gruden made about him.

    Unless the league manages to get this case summarily dismissed, it will be settled and Gruden will get a huge payday. The NFL will never let the rest of those emails out to be dug through by the media and others.

  5. I believe there are e-mails that pertain to hiring certain candidates for head coach positions throughout the NFL.

  6. Perfect timing now for Collin Kapernick to file his discrimination and collusion lawsuit as well. I would love to see Jerry Jones, and Robert Krafts email about him.

  7. Man, how effed up do you gotta be to make Gruden the good guy in this situation? Only the NFL can screw this up so badly that Gruden – a person who many didn’t like even before the emails – is the good guy. Hope Chucky cleans house!

  8. I like the idea of not settling, no matter how much the incompetent NFL offers. The more of their dirty laundry that can be exposed, the better. Maybe it even helps take down their overpaid pin cushion as well.

  9. If I were a betting person, I’d bet the NFL gets rid of this case on summary judgment. Gruden’s problem is that whatever the NFL did, the result was the release of true and legally non-private information. That’s a killer for his case.

  10. I hope Gruden’s lawsuit exposes Commissioner/Dictator Goodell to the world for what he really is. Time and again only a Goodell run league routinely botches stuff like this and is biased beyond belief. The lies, hypocrisy and arrogance is beyond absurd. Nothing excuses Gruden and his actions but he paid his price. Goodell needs to go and get his karma that he has coming to him

  11. Hopefully, Gruden will take down a few sleaze bags with him. A disgrace how this hit job was timed. If this happens in the off-season it’s still bad on a personal level for Gruden, but this disrupted the team‘s season in a manner that was totally uncalled for and it hurt the whole organization.

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