Jon Gruden won two important battles against his civil suit against the NFL Wednesday when a judge in Clark County, Nev., Denied two of the league’s legal motions – one to dismiss his lawsuit and the other to compel closed-door arbitration.
Gruden filed the lawsuit in November 2021, a month after The New York Times’ report on emails in which he made homophobic and misogynistic remarks led him to resign from his position as head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders. Another email exchange, in which he used racist language when referring to DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the NFL Players’ Union, which is Black, was reported by The Wall Street Journal.
In his suit, Gruden conceded that the league and Commissioner Roger Goodell intentionally leaked emails and sought to destroy his career and reputation through “a malicious and orchestrated campaign.”
Judge Nancy Allf, in the Eighth Judicial District Court in Clark County, heard oral arguments from both sides, while Gruden looked in the courtroom. She concluded that the defendants’ arguments did not meet the high bar in Nevada for the case to be dismissed outright. She also denied the NFL’s motion to move the case to arbitration, noting that she was “concerned with the commissioner having sole authority to determine any employee disputes.”
Brian McCarthy, an NFL spokesman, said the league planned to file an appeal of the court’s arbitration and reiterated that the league denies having leaked the emails.
The NFL argued that the league’s constitution calls for any employee to dispute the commissioner’s demesne detrimental to the league being sent to arbitration, and that there was no doubt that Gruden’s emails met that definition. But in her decision, Judge Alff said the detective was called to the league not to take place during the time Gruden was under contract with the Raiders.
Although the emails were made public early last season – a second stint of Gruden’s fourth year with the Raiders – they were sent over seven years, ending in 2018, while Gruden was working as an analyst for ESPN. Gruden has not been sending disparaging emails to Bruce Allen, the former Washington Commanders team president, and others. They were assembled as part of the league’s investigation into the workplace culture at the Washington Commanders. In his suit, he alleged that Goodell and the NFL intentionally leaked emails to create a distraction from criticism of his handling of the Washington investigation.
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Judge Alff’s ruling means that, for now, Gruden’s claims will remain open court, as both sides enter a potentially revealing discovery process that the NFL has sought to avoid in other labor disputes. The decision comes as the NFL prepares to file a motion to compel Brian Flores’ discrimination lawsuit against the league’s arbitration, a move that Flores and his lawyers have publicly opposed.
While Gruden’s lawyers argued that a decision to send his case to arbitration would create a troubling precedent for other employee disputes, it was unclear how or if this ruling would have any impact on how Flores’s case would be handled. A state district court ruling will have no direct impact on a case in the federal court, though judges may look to judgments from other courts to inform their decisions. Flores, the former head coach of the Miami Dolphins, has admitted that the NFL and its member teams discriminate against Black Head coaching candidates in their hiring processes.
“We have argued that the arbitration clauses at issue are unconscionable given that the Commissioner, who has made his views abundantly clear about this matter, cannot act as judge and jury and oversee the litigation of this matter,” Douglas Wigdor, one of the. Flores’ lawyers said via email on Wednesday.