We have not heard the last of Jon Gruden yet. The disgraced former Raiders coach is prosecute Roger Goodell and the NFL, claiming the league purposely leaked his emails to major news outlets in a “malicious and orchestrated campaign” to “destroy [his] career and reputation “. In a statement released by Gruden’s attorney, he asks the question that has been on our minds: why, of the hundreds of thousands of emails collected as part of the NFL investigation into workplace misconduct within the organization of the Washington football team, were only Gruden’s emails made public?
by Gruden e-mail, posted during his time as an employee at ESPN, contained racist, sexist, and homophobic language, but to believe he was the only NFL perpetrator of such a culture would be foolish. In a month full of NFL controversy, the question of where other WFT emails are has been put aside, much to the relief of many of the league’s high-ranking figures, I’m sure. As the lawsuit points out, the investigation “ended with Commissioner Goodell’s vague conclusion that the team’s workplace was unprofessional, a fine against the team, further training in workplace sensitivity and the decision to keep all investigative materials confidential …. The NFL has broken its precedent by forgoing written reports and rejecting transparency by refusing to release documents even in response to a Congressional request. “
We all agree that Gruden could not profitably continue a career as the head coach of a large sports organization with the public awareness of those emails. We also all agree that there is no chance in hell that Gruden’s emails were the only ones the NFL found that if released would end a career. The NFL’s refusal to release further emails has “outraged” WFT employees who had come forward with allegations of inappropriate behavior, and the lawsuit alleges that the league “calculating released only a single email that they knew would harm. Gruden and would divert the investigation of the Washington football team to one of their favorite outlets, the Wall Street Journal.
Now, there is no evidence that the NFL leaked the emails and their lawyers categorically deny any involvement in the leak. And as Mike Florio pointed out in a PFT item posted this morning, why the leak did not take heat worn out of the WFT investigation, which had already been successfully pushed under the carpet.
Instead, it awakened the public to the investigation and the lack of transparency that accompanied it, causing more vitriol to be directed towards the NFL and even congressional involvement. If the NFL leaked the emails, it backfired on them. It seems more likely that this was a case of personal revenge for Goodell, who was the subject of many of Gruden’s correspondences and who perhaps hoped to humiliate Gruden after finding those emails during the WFT investigation. The lawsuit refers to the NFL’s handling of the Gruden case as “murder of a Soviet-style character.”
The NFL has access to such a ridiculous amount of money that they will likely be able to settle this with Gruden for whatever amount you call, because taking this to court would risk more emails from high-profile characters being released and the league being forced. to face a public showdown. Make no mistake: Gruden has destroyed his reputation and career by using insults and other offensive language on an easily traceable platform. But if he and his attorney are able to prove other intraleague communications are relevant and overcome any general liability agreement, this lawsuit is also the best chance we have right now to get the rest of the emails out, and at least for a few other people – including Goodell – to finally tackle the music.