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Electronically Filed 11/11/2021 12:29 PM Steven D. Grierson CLERK OF THE COURT

10

COMPB Adam Hosmer-Henner, Esq. (NSBN 12779) Jeff Silvestri, Esq. (NSBN 5779) Rory Kay, Esq. (NSBN 12416) Chelsea Latino, Esq. (NSBN 14227) Jane Susskind, Esq. (NSBN 15099) Zachary Noland, Esq. (NSBN 15075) MCDONALD CARANO LLP 2300 West Sahara Avenue, Suite 1200 Las Vegas, Nevada 89102 (702) 873-4100 [email protected] [email protected] [email protected] [email protected] [email protected] [email protected]

11

Attorneys for Plaintiff Jon Gruden

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

CASE NO: A-21-844043-B Department 27

12

DISTRICT COURT

13

CLARK COUNTY, NEVADA

14

CASE NO.: DEPT. NO.:

JON GRUDEN,

15

Plaintiff,

COMPLAINT

16

v.

17

THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE; ROGER GOODELL; DOES 1-10; and ROE ENTITIES 11-20, inclusive,

18 19

Defendants.

20

Request for Business Court Assignment (EDCR 1.61(a)(2)(ii)) Exempt from Arbitration (N.A.R. 3 – Amount in Controversy and Equitable Relief Sought) Jury Demand (NRCP 38(b))

21 22

Plaintiff Jon Gruden (“Gruden” or “Plaintiff”) complains and alleges against Defendants

23

the National Football League (“NFL”), Roger Goodell (“Goodell” or “Commissioner”), DOES 1-

24

10, and ROE Entities 11-20 (collectively “Defendants”) as follows: INTRODUCTION

25 26

1.

Through a malicious and orchestrated campaign, the NFL and Commissioner Roger

27

Goodell sought to destroy the career and reputation of Jon Gruden, the former head coach of the

28

Las Vegas Raiders (“Raiders”).

Case Number: A-21-844043-B

2.

1

In June 2021, Defendants obtained private emails between Gruden and his friend

2

and former co-worker, Bruce Allen, during an unrelated, confidential investigation into the

3

Washington Football Team. These emails were sent between 2011 and 2018, during which time

4

Gruden was not working as a coach in the NFL but as an employee of ESPN. 3.

5

The investigation into the Washington Football Team was launched after reports that

6

15 female employees had experienced sexual or verbal abuse. The investigation was managed by

7

outside counsel and included the collection of 650,000 emails and more than 150 witness

8

interviews. It ended with a vague conclusion by Commissioner Goodell that the team’s workplace

9

was unprofessional, a fine against the team, additional workplace sensitivity training, and a decision

10

to keep all investigation materials confidential. The NFL broke its own precedent by foregoing

11

written reports and rejecting transparency, refusing to release documents even in response to a

12

request from Congress. 4.

13

In contrast to the formalities of the Washington Football Team investigation,

14

Defendants’ treatment of Gruden was a Soviet-style character assassination. There was no warning

15

and no process. Defendants held the emails for months until they were leaked to the national media

16

in the middle of the Raiders’ season in order to cause maximum damage to Gruden. 5.

17

Defendants first leaked a 2011 email from Gruden to the Wall Street Journal

18

referencing DeMaurice Smith, Executive Director of the National Football League Players

19

Association.1 Defendants then immediately condemned the email as “abhorrent” and, with a straight

20

face, “regret[ted] any harm that its publication may inflict on Mr. Smith or anyone else.”2 After this

21

leak on October 8, 2021, Defendants pressured the Raiders to fire Gruden. 6.

22 23

When their initial salvo did not result in Gruden’s firing or resignation, Defendants

ratcheted up the pressure by intimating that further documents would become public if Gruden was

24 25 26 27 28

1

See Andrew Beaton, Jon Gruden Used Racial Trope to Describe NFLPA Chief DeMaurice Smith in 2011 Email, Wall St. J. (Oct. 8, 2021, 8:09 PM), https://www.wsj.com/articles/jon-grudenemail-demaurice-smith-11633721045 [hereinafter WSJ Report]. 2

Raiders, NFL Condemn Jon Gruden for Using Racial Trope in 2011 Email to Describe NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith, NFL (Oct. 8, 2021, 7:02 PM), https://www.nfl.com/ news/raiders-nfl-condemn-jon-gruden-for-using-racial-trope-in-2011-email-to-describe-. Page 2 of 21

1

not fired. They followed through with this threat by leaking another batch of documents to the New

2

York Times for an October 11, 2021 article.3 7.

3 4

On October 7, 2021, Jon Gruden was the head coach of the Raiders on a 10-year,

$100-million contract. By October 11, 2021, he had been forced to resign. 8.

5

After a year-long investigation into the hostile-work-environment and sexual-

6

harassment allegations leveled against the Washington Football Team, the only information

7

disclosed to the public was a selection of Gruden’s private and personal correspondence. 9.

8

Gruden released this statement after being forced to resign: “I have resigned as Head

9

Coach of the Las Vegas Raiders. I love the Raiders and do not want to be a distraction. Thank you

10

to all the players, coaches, staff, and fans of Raider Nation. I’m sorry, I never meant to hurt

11

anyone.”4 Defendants, however, did intend to hurt Gruden and they did so with unchecked

12

hypocrisy and arrogance. PARTIES

13 10.

14 15

Plaintiff Jon Gruden is a citizen of the state of Nevada and a resident of Clark

County, Nevada. He is the former head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders. 11.

16

Defendant National Football League is an unincorporated association of 32 member

17

clubs organized under the laws of New York. The NFL is a resident of Nevada because, among

18

other reasons, it does business here and derives substantial revenue from its contacts with Nevada,

19

and one of its member clubs is a resident of Nevada. 12.

20

Defendant Roger Goodell is an individual and, upon information and belief, a

21

resident of New York. Goodell is the Commissioner of the NFL. His actions were taken for his

22

individual benefit and/or in concert with the NFL.

23 24 25 26 27 28

3

Ken Belson et al., Raiders Coach Resigns After Homophobic and Misogynistic Emails, N.Y. Times (Oct. 11, 2021 & updated Oct. 28, 2021), https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/11/sports/ football/what-did-jon-gruden-say.html?smtyp=cur&smid=tw-nytimes [hereinafter NYT Report]. 4

Marcus Mosher, Jon Gruden Issues Statement After Resigning from Raiders, Raiders Wire (Oct. 11, 2021, 7:02 PM), https://raiderswire.usatoday.com/2021/10/11/jon-gruden-issues-statementafter-resigning-from-raiders. Page 3 of 21

13.

1

There may be other persons or entities, whether individuals, corporations,

2

associations, or otherwise, who are or may be legally responsible for the acts, omissions,

3

circumstances, happenings, and/or damages or other relief requested by this Complaint. The true

4

names and capacities of DOES 1 through 10 and ROE Entities 11 through 20 are unknown to

5

Plaintiff, who sues those defendants by such fictitious names. Plaintiff will seek leave of this Court

6

to amend this Complaint to insert the proper names of the defendants when such names and

7

capacities become known to Plaintiff. JURISDICTION AND VENUE

8 14.

9 10

This Court has jurisdiction over this action because it arises under Nevada law and

seeks the recovery of money in excess of $15,000.00. 15.

11

This Court has jurisdiction over the parties because Defendants, and each of them,

12

engaged in intentional conduct expressly directed at and calculated to cause harm to Plaintiff, a

13

Nevada resident. Defendants knew that the effects of their wrongful conduct would be felt in and

14

would be unique to Nevada. 16.

15 16

reasons, Plaintiff resided in Clark County, Nevada at the commencement of the action. GENERAL ALLEGATIONS COMMON TO ALL CLAIMS

17 18

Venue is appropriate in this Court pursuant to NRS 13.040 because, among other

A.

The National Football League and Commissioner Goodell 17.

19

The NFL is the most popular sports league in the country and earns more revenue

20

than any sports league in the world. In 2019, it earned approximately $16 billion in revenue and, in

21

2020, approximately $12 billion.5 Commissioner Goodell himself earned nearly $128 million over

22

the previous two years.6 Until 2015, the NFL operated as a tax-exempt, non-profit entity.

23 24 25 26 27 28

5

Ben Fischer, SBJ Football: Pandemic Took 25% Bite out of NFL Revenue, Sports Bus. J. (Mar. 11, 2021), https://www.sportsbusinessjournal.com/SB-Blogs/Newsletter-Football/2021/03/11. 6

Analis Bailey, Report: Roger Goodell Received Staggering Salary Package over Past Two Years: $128 Million, USA Today (Oct. 29, 2021, 11:37 AM), https://www.usatoday.com/story/ sports/nfl/2021/10/29/roger-goodell-received-128-million-salary-over-two-years/6191205001. Page 4 of 21

18.

1

Pursuant to the NFL Constitution and Bylaws, the “League shall select and employ

2

a person of unquestioned integrity to serve as Commissioner of the League and shall determine the

3

period and fix the compensation of his employment.” 19.

4

Commissioner Goodell is beholden to the owners of the NFL teams and has

5

frequently been criticized for putting the interests of team owners above the interests of players or

6

fans. The Washington Post described Commissioner Goodell as acting like a dictator in securing

7

his hold on power.7

8

20.

9

Commissioner Goodell does not have the authority to decide which coach a team

must hire or to unilaterally dictate the terms of employment for the coach of a team. 21.

10

It is certainly not within Commissioner Goodell’s authority to disclose confidential

11

information to the media or to pressure a team to fire one of its employees because that employee

12

insulted Commissioner Goodell. 22.

13 14

Commissioner Goodell is often described as serving as the judge, jury, and

executioner due to his attempt to exercise unfettered authority over internal NFL disputes. 23.

15

In the 2020-2021 season, the Raiders were fined $800,000 by the NFL for alleged

16

violations of COVID-19 protocols and the NFL sought to strip the team of a draft pick. In the 2020-

17

2021 season, the NFL fined Gruden $250,000 for violations of COVID-19 protocols such as the

18

failure to properly wear a mask.8 24.

19

This is not an internal dispute though, as clearly shown by the Defendants’ actions

20

in leaking documents to the national media, and the courts can and should hold Defendants

21

accountable for the harm caused to Gruden.

22 23 24 25 26 27 28

7

Michael C. Horowitz, How Does the NFL’s Roger Goodell Stay in Power? By Acting Like a Dictator., Wash. Post (Aug. 24, 2015), https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkeycage/wp/2015/08/24/how-does-the-nfls-roger-goodell-stay-in-power-by-acting-like-a-dictator.

8

Charles Robinson, Sources: NFL Drops Another Hammer on Raiders for Latest COVID-19 Violations, Fining Franchise $500k and Gruden $150k, Yahoo! (Nov. 5, 2020), https://www.yahoo.com/now/nfl-just-dropped-another-hammer-on-raiders-for-latest-covid-19violations-020651902.html. Page 5 of 21

1

B.

25.

2 3

The Washington Football Team Investigation On July 16, 2020, the Washington Post reported that 15 women who previously

worked for the Washington Football Team had experienced sexual harassment and verbal abuse.9 26.

4

The same day, the Washington Football Team announced it had hired attorney Beth

5

Wilkinson (“Wilkinson”) to investigate the allegations, which included “discussion of the female

6

employees’ bodies, unwelcome overtures, sexually charged comments, directives to sales staffers

7

to wear skimpy clothing and excessive berating.”10 27.

8

On August 26, 2020, the Washington Post issued a story detailing the accounts of

9

former cheerleaders who had been recorded without their knowledge during the team’s swimsuit-

10

calendar photo shoots in 2008 and 2010. The cheerleaders alleged that Snyder’s vice president and

11

former play-by-play announcer directed team employees to produce these videos for Snyder.11 28.

12

On August 31, 2020, the NFL announced that it had assumed oversight of the

13

investigation of these claims. Wilkinson would still lead the investigation, though she would now

14

report to Goodell and the NFL instead of Snyder and the Washington Football Team. Thus, the

15

NFL, which was ostensibly responsible for disciplining the Washington Football Team, engaged

16

the same attorney for its “independent” investigation who had been initially hired by the subjects

17

of the investigation.12 29.

18 19

During the reporting on the investigation, multiple news sources, including the New

York Times and Washington Post, ran stories in December 2020 revealing that Snyder had settled

20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28

9

Will Hobson et al., From Dream Job to Nightmare: More than a Dozen Women Allege Sexual Harassment and Verbal Abuse by Former Team Employees at Redskins Park, Wash. Post (July 16, 2020), https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/2020/07/16/redskins-sexual-harassmentlarry-michael-alex-santos. 10

Andrew Beaton, Washington’s NFL Team Hires Law Firm to Review Allegations of Workplace Misconduct, Wall St. J. (July 16, 2020, 6:36 PM), https://www.wsj.com/articles/washingtons-nflteam-hires-law-firm-to-review-allegations-of-workplace-misconduct-11594925912.

11

Will Hobson et al., Lewd Cheerleader Videos, Sexist Rules: Ex-employees Decry Washington’s NFL Team Workplace, Wash. Post (Aug. 26, 2020), https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/ 2020/08/26/redskins-cheerleaders-video-daniel-snyder-washington.

12

NFL Taking Over Investigation of Washington Football Team, NFL (Aug. 31, 2020, 7:20 PM), https://www.nfl.com/news/nfl-taking-over-investigation-of-washington-football-team. Page 6 of 21

1

a separate sexual-misconduct claim for $1.6 million in 2009. The former female employee who

2

made that claim alleged that Snyder made unwanted sexual advances while the two flew in Snyder’s

3

private jet.

4

30.

In February 2021, against the backdrop of the NFL’s investigation of the sexual-

5

harassment and verbal-abuse allegations of the team’s former employees, the Washington Football

6

Team settled with its former cheerleaders on undisclosed terms related to the video. 31.

7

In July 2021, only five weeks before the NFL began its preseason, the NFL

8

announced that it had fined the Washington Football Team $10 million because of the findings of

9

Wilkinson’s investigation into the team’s workplace culture and the former employees’ allegations

10

of sexual harassment and verbal abuse. 32.

11

The NFL’s traditional practice is to prepare and release a formal written report of its

12

internal investigations. Touting its purported commitment to public transparency, the NFL has

13

released written reports of numerous independent investigations, including an investigation into

14

workplace harassment involving the Miami Dolphins in 2014, an investigation into the NFL’s own

15

investigation of a domestic violence incident involving then-Baltimore Ravens football player Ray

16

Rice in 2014, and an investigation into deflated footballs used by the Patriots to gain an unfair

17

advantage and alter the outcome of the AFC Championship Game in January 2015.13 33.

18 19

Unlike in the independent investigations, the NFL instructed Wilkinson not to

prepare a written report and did not release any specific details surrounding Wilkinson’s year-long

20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28

13

See Theodore V. Wells, Jr. et al., Report to the National Football League Concerning Issues of Workplace Conduct at the Miami Dolphins 6 (Feb. 14, 2014) (“The NFL retained [the investigator] to ‘direct an independent investigation into issues of workplace conduct at the Miami Dolphins and prepare a report for the Commissioner, which would be made public.’”), https://www.sportsconflict.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/PaulWeissReport.pdf; Robert S. Mueller III, Report to the National Football League of an Independent Investigation into the Ray Rice Incident 10 (Jan. 8, 2015) (“From the start, the League expected that . . . report would be made public.”), http://static.nfl.com/static/content/public/photo/2015/01/08/0ap3000000455484 .pdf; Theodore V. Wells, Jr. et al., Investigative Report Concerning Footballs Used During the AFC Championship Game on January 18, 2015 at 22 (May 6, 2015) (“making clear that the investigation would follow customary investigative procedures and that the results would be shared publicly”), http://static.nfl.com/static/content/public/photo/2015/05/06/0ap3000000491 381.pdf. Page 7 of 21

1

probe. The NFL refused to officially release any of the 650,000 emails that it uncovered during the

2

investigation into the Washington Football Team. 34.

3

The secrecy outraged the 40 former employees who had made allegations against

4

the Washington Football Team, participated in the investigation, and wanted the NFL to make the

5

report public. Their attorney wrote: “It is truly outrageous that after the NFL’s 10-month long

6

investigation involving hundreds of witnesses and 650,000 documents related to the longtime

7

culture of harassment and abuse at the Washington Football Team, the only person to be held

8

accountable and lose their job is the coach of the Las Vegas Raiders. . . . Our clients and the public

9

at large deserve transparency and accountability. If not, the NFL and Roger Goodell must explain

10

why they appear intent on protecting the Washington Football Team and owner Dan Snyder at all

11

costs.”14 35.

12

To justify the refusal to issue a written report, Defendants cited their desire to protect

13

the confidentiality of those same former employees. The attorneys for the former employees wrote

14

to Commissioner Goodell: “Your continued refusal to produce the findings of the investigation,

15

ignoring the repeated pleas from those who put themselves at great risk to participate in this

16

investigation, suggests strongly that it is not they who you are determined to protect.”15 36.

17

One former employee called the NFL’s refusal to issue a report “cowardly” and

18

accused Goodell and the NFL of using the former employees and purported concern for their

19

confidentiality to “shield the NFL” from further scrutiny.16

20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28

14

Lisa Banks and Debra Katz Call on NFL to Release Results of Washington Football Team Investigation, Katz, Marshall & Banks, LLP (Oct. 13, 2021), https://kmblegal.com/news/lisabanks-debra-katz-call-nfl-release-results-washington-football-team-investigation. 15

John Keim, Attorneys for Former Washington Football Team Employees Reject NFL’s Stance, Say Clients Want Investigation ‘Findings Released’, ABC News (Oct. 27, 2021, 1:49 PM), https://abcnews.go.com/Sports/attorneys-washington-football-team-employees-reject-nfls-stance /story?id=80821890. 16

Paulina Dedaj, Ex-Washington Cheerleader Says NFL Is ‘Using Us and Our Anonymity to Shield’ the League by Not Issuing Report, Fox News (Oct. 28, 2021), https://www.foxnews.com/ sports/washington-cheerleader-nfl-using-us-anonymity-report. Page 8 of 21

37.

1 2

Defendants have come under increasing scrutiny for their refusal to release the

documents and reports from the Washington Football Team investigation. 38.

3

The Congressional Committee on Oversight recently wrote to Commissioner

4

Goodell to request all documents, communications, and reports or findings from the Washington

5

Football Team investigation. The Committee wrote to Defendants: “We have serious concerns

6

about what appears to be widespread abusive workplace conduct at the WFT and about the NFL’s

7

handling of this matter. Communications between league management and WFT leadership also

8

raise questions about the league’s asserted impartiality in these investigations.”17 39.

9

After the NFL failed to produce documents in response to Congress’s request, Rep.

10

Carolyn B. Maloney, Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, and Rep. Raja

11

Krishnamoorthi, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, again called

12

on the “National Football League and the Washington Football Team to commit to complete

13

transparency on the NFL’s handling of the WFT’s hostile workplace culture.”18 40.

14 15

Similarly, the NFL Players Association has pushed for full disclosure and has

indicated that it will request that the NFL release the rest of the emails.19 41.

16

In the NFL’s announcement of the investigation’s conclusion, the NFL confirmed

17

the severity of the Washington Football Team’s actions: “[F]or many years the workplace

18

environment at the Washington Football Team, both generally and particularly for women, was

19

highly unprofessional. Bullying and intimidation frequently took place and many described the

20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28

17

Letter from H.R. Comm. on Oversight and Reform to Roger Goodell, Commissioner, NFL (Oct. 21, 2021), https://oversight.house.gov/sites/democrats.oversight.house.gov/files/Final%20202110-21.CBM%20RK%20to%20Goodell-NFL%20re%20WFT%20Investigation.pdf. 18

Chairs Maloney and Krishnamoorthi Call for Transparency from NFL, Washington Football Team, H.R. Comm. on Oversight and Reform (Nov. 5, 2021), https://oversight.house.gov/news /press-releases/chairs-maloney-and-krishnamoorthi-call-for-transparency-from-nfl-washington.

19

Mike Florio, NFLPA Plans to Petition NFL to Release the Rest of the WFT Emails, NBC Sports (Oct. 12, 2021, 2:53 PM), https://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2021/10/12/nflpa-plans-topetition-nfl-to-release-the-rest-of-the-wft-emails. Page 9 of 21

1

culture as one of fear, and numerous female employees reported having experienced sexual

2

harassment and a general lack of respect in the workplace.”20 42.

3

The punishment imposed by the NFL against the Washington Football Team has

4

been minimal. After a secretive, self-serving, and year-long investigation into a decade of

5

allegations against the Washington Football Team, the NFL fined the Washington Football Team a

6

paltry $10 million, required Snyder, the team’s multibillionaire owner, to participate in sensitivity

7

training, and swept the rest under the rug. 43.

8

While Defendants protected Snyder and the Washington Football Team, they treated

9

Gruden far differently by selectively disclosing documents to maximize the harm to Gruden and to

10

single him out. The New York Times described Gruden as “collateral damage in a tangled case that

11

had focused on the conduct of Daniel Snyder, the contentious owner of the Washington Football

12

Team, and his feud with investors in the team.”21

13

C.

Defendants Intentionally Leak Gruden’s and Only Gruden’s Documents. 44.

14

Defendants attempted to create a distraction from the controversy over their

15

handling of the Washington Football Team investigation by misusing documents from that

16

investigation to publicly sabotage Gruden’s career. 45.

17 18

Defendants had access to the emails since at least June 2021 but held on to them

without notifying Gruden or the Raiders until October 2021. 46.

19

The emails between Gruden and Allen contained insulting and derogatory language

20

about Commissioner Goodell, whose actions to harm Gruden in response were taken in his

21

individual capacity and were outside of his scope and authority as Commissioner.

22 23 24 25 26 27 28

20

NFL Announces Outcome of Washington Football Team Workplace Review, NFL (July 1, 2021, 3:45 PM), https://www.nfl.com/news/nfl-announces-outcome-of-washington-football-teamworkplace-review. 21

Kevin Draper, Gruden’s Emails Were Collateral Damage in Washington Football Inquiry, N.Y. Times (Oct. 26, 2021), https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/12/sports/football/jon-gruden-emailsdan-snyder.html?searchResultPosition=3. Page 10 of 21

47.

1

The actions by Defendants were taken outside of all standard procedures of the NFL

2

and were contrary to Defendants’ own public position that the documents from the Washington

3

Football Team investigation were confidential. 48.

4

Commissioner Goodell reviewed the emails and summaries together with the NFL’s

5

senior executives. Rather than initiate a genuine investigation or provide Gruden with any

6

semblance of due process, Defendants instead directly leaked the documents to the media. 49.

7

On October 8, 2021, the Wall Street Journal, through reporter Andrew Beaton,

8

published a report (“WSJ Report”) about a July 2011 email from Gruden to Allen, who was the

9

Washington Football Team general manager at the time. The email, which was sent by Gruden

10

while he was working at ESPN, was but one of the 650,000 emails that Defendants reviewed during

11

the Washington Football Team investigation.22 50.

12

Defendants did not release to the Wall Street Journal all of the emails that they

13

reviewed during the Washington Football Team investigation, nor did they even release all of

14

Gruden’s emails in the same set. Instead, Defendants calculatingly released only a single email that

15

they knew would harm Gruden and would take the focus off the Washington Football Team

16

investigation. 51.

17 18

The Wall Street Journal, upon information and belief, is one of the NFL’s customary

outlets for leaking information to the media. 52.

19

After the WSJ Report went public on October 8, 2021, Defendants pressured the

20

Raiders to fire Gruden. Despite this pressure, Gruden would coach the Raiders the following

21

weekend with the public support of his team and players. 53.

22

Even after the WSJ Report, Gruden received public support from many sources. He

23

was supported by Randall Cunningham, former UNLV quarterback and team chaplain of the

24

Raiders, who said: “Hey, I know you as a person. I don’t believe you’re a racist in any faction of

25

the game . . . . If anybody pulled up our records, we would all be guilty. So, I don’t condemn him

26 27 28

22

See WSJ Report, supra note 1. Page 11 of 21

1

nor do we as a church condemn him. He’s a faithful person, and I love that about him. And he cares

2

about people, so it’s kind of just what it is.”23 54.

3

One of his former players, Tim Brown, similarly came to Gruden’s defense: “Never,

4

ever, have I gotten anything from him that made me even pause, to think about, ‘Hmm, that didn’t

5

come off right.’”24

6

55.

When the Raiders had not terminated Gruden after the WSJ Report, Defendants

7

added pressure by intimating that more documents would become public if Gruden remained

8

employed.

9

56.

Defendants followed through. On October 11, 2021, the New York Times published

10

a report (“NYT Report”) outlining additional emails that were sent between Gruden and Allen.

11

These emails were leaked by Defendants despite being treated as confidential as part of the

12

Washington Football Team investigation. The NYT Report described these emails as containing

13

racist, homophobic, and misogynistic language by Gruden in conversations with Allen. They also

14

contained insulting and derogatory language against Commissioner Goodell.25 57.

15 16

The New York Times, upon information and belief, is one of the NFL’s customary

outlets for leaking information to the media. 58.

17

Out of 650,000 emails obtained months earlier in connection with the investigation

18

into workplace misconduct by the Washington Football Team, Defendants weaponized a small

19

subset that were authored by Gruden prior to his hiring by the Raiders. Defendants then

20

purposefully leveraged these emails to cause the termination of Gruden’s coaching contract,

21

endorsements, and sponsorships.

22 23 24 25 26 27 28

23

Meg Turner, Ex-NFL QB, Pastor Randall Cunningham Backs Jon Gruden: ‘I Don’t Believe You’re a Racist’, Fox News (Nov. 3, 2021), https://www.foxnews.com/sports/ex-nfl-qb-pastorrandall-cunningham-backs-jon-gruden-i-dont-believe-youre-a-racist. 24

Adam Hill et al., Former Raiders Great Admits Comment Could Cost Gruden His Job, Las Vegas Rev.-J. (Oct. 9, 2021, 3:14 PM), https://www.reviewjournal.com/sports/raiders/formerraiders-great-admits-comment-could-cost-gruden-his-job-2456387. 25

See NYT Report, supra note 3. Page 12 of 21

59.

1

Within hours of the NYT Report going public on October 11, 2021, Defendants’

2

orchestrated campaign had successfully forced Gruden to resign.

3

D.

The Damage to Gruden Is Immense. 60.

4

Gruden is one of the most respected and successful coaches in the history of

5

professional football. His contract with the Raiders reputedly made him the highest-paid coach in

6

the NFL’s history. Building on his coaching reputation, Gruden also became a famous media

7

personality while working as the highest-paid commentator at ESPN. 61.

8

Gruden has been around the sport of football for almost his entire life. After playing

9

football at the University of Dayton, Gruden began working his way up the coaching ladder by

10

taking assistant roles at the University of Tennessee, Southeast Missouri State, and the University

11

of the Pacific. 62.

12 13

He began coaching in the NFL in 1990 with the San Francisco 49ers, launching a

professional coaching career spanning nearly four decades. 63.

14

In 1998, the Oakland Raiders hired Gruden to serve as head coach, beginning a run

15

of nearly 15 years as a head coach. At the time, Gruden was the youngest head coach in the NFL.

16

During his time with the Oakland Raiders, Gruden led the team to an appearance in the 2001 AFC

17

Championship Game. 64.

18

In 2002, Gruden was traded by the Oakland Raiders to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

19

for two first-round draft picks, two second-round draft picks, and $8 million. The trade was a

20

success for the Buccaneers as Gruden led the team to a Super Bowl victory. At the time, this made

21

Gruden the youngest head coach to win the Super Bowl. Gruden coached the Buccaneers for six

22

more seasons, twice leading them to the playoffs. 65.

23

Four months after leaving the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, ESPN hired Gruden in 2009

24

to co-host the network’s iconic Monday Night Football franchise with Mike Tirico and Ron

25

Jaworski. ESPN made Gruden the network’s highest-paid personality in 2015 and he was

26

nominated seven times for the Sports Emmy Award for Outstanding Sports Personality – Sports

27

Event Analyst.

28

/// Page 13 of 21

1

66.

All of Gruden’s communications that were leaked by Defendants were sent while

2

Gruden was at ESPN and not affiliated with Defendants or with the Raiders. The communications

3

were entirely outside of the course and scope of Gruden’s employment with any member club of

4

the NFL.

5 6 7

67.

In 2018, the Oakland Raiders hired Gruden as their head coach under a 10-year,

$100-million contract. 68.

When the Raiders moved to Las Vegas, Nevada, in 2020 and provided the State of

8

Nevada with its first professional football franchise, Gruden came with the team and became the

9

very first head coach for the Las Vegas Raiders.

10 11 12

69.

Gruden coached the first five games of the 2021-2022 season, but due to Defendants’

actions, he was forced to resign on October 11, 2021. 70.

As a direct and proximate result of Defendants’ malicious efforts to interfere with

13

Gruden’s contract with the Raiders, Gruden experienced massive financial damages. These

14

damages include the loss of the balance of his $100 million contract, less offsets, which was to run

15

through the 2027 season.

16

71.

Those losses also include an endorsement contract with footwear and apparel

17

company Skechers. Gruden was pulled from appearing in the video game Madden NFL 2022, which

18

bears the name of famous Oakland Raiders football coach John Madden.

19

72.

Gruden has likewise suffered significant injuries to his reputation that will affect his

20

future employment prospects and endorsement opportunities. So far, those injuries already include

21

the removal of his name from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Ring of Honor at Raymond James

22

Stadium and the removal of his name from other charitable institutions that have benefited from his

23

donations.

24

73.

Based on the foregoing facts, Gruden is entitled to the relief set forth below.

25

FIRST CAUSE OF ACTION

26

(Intentional Interference with Contractual Relations)

27 28

74.

Plaintiff incorporates the allegations contained in the preceding and following

paragraphs as if set forth verbatim herein. Page 14 of 21

1

75.

At the time Defendants engaged in the acts and omissions alleged herein, there

2

existed valid and enforceable contracts between Plaintiff and third parties, including Plaintiff’s 10-

3

year, $100-million coaching contract with the Raiders as well as personal endorsement contracts.

4 5 6 7 8 9

76.

Defendants had actual and/or constructive knowledge of Plaintiff’s coaching and

endorsement contracts at all relevant times. 77.

Defendants intended, and their acts and omissions described herein were designed,

to disrupt Plaintiff’s contractual relationships. 78.

Defendants intentionally interfered with Plaintiff’s contractual relationships for the

purpose of harming Plaintiff.

10

79.

Defendants lacked any privilege or justification for their actions.

11

80.

Defendants’ acts and omissions as described herein actually and significantly

12

disrupted Plaintiff’s contractual relationships because, among other things, Plaintiff’s contracts

13

have been terminated.

14

81.

As a direct and proximate result of Defendants’ intentional interference with said

15

contracts, Plaintiff has been damaged in excess of $15,000.00. Defendants’ actions entailed malice,

16

warranting the imposition of exemplary and punitive damages.

17

82.

It has been necessary for Plaintiff to retain attorneys to bring this Complaint.

18

Accordingly, Plaintiff is entitled to recover his reasonable attorney’s fees and costs incurred herein.

19

SECOND CAUSE OF ACTION

20

(Tortious Interference with Prospective Economic Advantage)

21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28

83.

Plaintiff incorporates the allegations contained in the preceding and following

paragraphs as if set forth verbatim herein. 84.

A prospective contractual and/or economic relationship existed between Plaintiff

and third parties, including those interested in employing, endorsing, or sponsoring Plaintiff. 85.

Defendants knew or had reason to know of such prospective relationships at all

relevant times. 86.

Defendants knew or had reason to know that their actions would interfere with

Plaintiff’s future employment prospects and endorsement opportunities. Page 15 of 21

87.

1 2

and Defendants engaged in such interference for the sole purpose of harming Plaintiff. 88.

3 4

Defendants intended to harm Plaintiff by preventing such prospective relationships,

Defendants’ acts and omissions as described herein were neither privileged nor

justified. 89.

5

As a direct and proximate result of Defendants’ tortious interference with said

6

prospective relationships, Plaintiff has been damaged in excess of $15,000.00. Defendants’ actions

7

entailed malice, warranting the imposition of exemplary and punitive damages. 90.

8

It has been necessary for Plaintiff to retain attorneys to bring this Complaint.

9

Accordingly, Plaintiff is entitled to recover his reasonable attorney’s fees and costs incurred herein.

10

THIRD CAUSE OF ACTION

11

(Negligence) 91.

12 13

paragraphs as if set forth verbatim herein. 92.

14 15

Plaintiff incorporates the allegations contained in the preceding and following

Defendants had full oversight and control over the investigation into the Washington

Football Team. 93.

16

Through the course of the investigation, Defendants collected and controlled highly

17

confidential and private information, including 650,000 emails and notes from more than 150

18

interviews.

19

94.

Defendants’ oversight and control of the investigation was exclusive. Wilkinson,

20

who was initially hired by the Washington Football Team to investigate the allegations,

21

subsequently reported only to Defendants. 95.

22

Based on the sensitive nature of the investigation and the private information

23

collected therein, selectively leaking information obtained through the investigation would

24

foreseeably harm Gruden. 96.

25

Defendants therefore had a duty to exercise reasonable care in conducting the

26

investigation, including a duty to exercise reasonable care in protecting and safeguarding the highly

27

confidential and private information collected as part of the investigation.

28

/// Page 16 of 21

97.

1

Defendants’ failure to exercise reasonable care in conducting the investigation,

2

including their failure to exercise reasonable care in protecting, safeguarding, and preventing the

3

selective leaking of private information collected during the investigation into the Washington

4

Football Team, was the actual and proximate cause of Gruden’s injuries, damages, and losses,

5

which are in excess of $15,000.00. 98.

6

It has been necessary for Plaintiff to retain attorneys to bring this Complaint.

7

Accordingly, Plaintiff is entitled to recover his reasonable attorney’s fees and costs incurred herein.

8

FOURTH CAUSE OF ACTION

9

(Negligent Hiring) 99.

10 11

Plaintiff incorporates the allegations contained in the preceding and following

paragraphs as if set forth verbatim herein. 100.

12

Defendants hired and retained several professionals to lead the investigation.

13

Defendants also hired and retained numerous employees and professionals to help conduct the

14

investigation, including Commissioner Goodell, who is employed by the NFL. 101.

15

Defendants knew that those employees and agents leading and conducting the

16

investigation would have access to and control over highly confidential personal information. The

17

allegations against the Washington Football Team involved widespread verbal abuse, sexual

18

misconduct, and the use of non-disclosure agreements to silence female employees. These

19

allegations caught the public’s interest and attention, understandably so, with media sources beyond

20

the traditional sports networks reporting extensively on the allegations and investigation. 102.

21

With increased national attention from the public and media, a critical qualification

22

for those employees involved in the investigation was the ability to collect highly confidential

23

personal information while protecting it from unauthorized disclosure or leaking. 103.

24

Defendants therefore had a duty to exercise reasonable care in hiring and retaining

25

well-qualified, objective, and diligent professionals with experience conducting large-scale

26

investigations of national interest. Included in this duty is the duty to take necessary steps before

27

and during the employment to ensure that each employee is fit for the position.

28

/// Page 17 of 21

1

104.

Defendants breached this duty by negligently hiring individuals who permitted, or

2

failed to prevent, the intentional leaking or unauthorized disclosure of confidential information

3

collected through the investigation into the Washington Football Team workplace misconduct.

4

105.

Defendants knew, or should have known, that the information related to such

5

allegations would include private information. The allegations against the Washington Football

6

Team were severe and far-reaching, and thus the investigation required the NFL and its employees

7

to inquire about and collect personal information from those within and outside of the organization.

8 9 10

106.

Defendants’ negligent hiring and retention was the actual and proximate cause of

Gruden’s injuries, damages, and losses, which are in excess of $15,000.00. 107.

It has been necessary for Plaintiff to retain attorneys to bring this Complaint.

11

Accordingly, Plaintiff is entitled to recover his reasonable attorney’s fees and costs incurred herein.

12

FIFTH CAUSE OF ACTION

13

(Negligent Supervision)

14 15 16

108.

Plaintiff incorporates the allegations contained in the preceding and following

paragraphs as if set forth verbatim herein. 109.

Despite having actual knowledge that the people they employed and oversaw

17

permitted or failed to prevent the intentional leaking or unauthorized disclosure of confidential

18

information, Defendants failed to properly supervise their employees and protect that private

19

information from further leaks.

20

110.

Defendants had a duty to exercise reasonable care in supervising the investigation.

21

111.

By failing to exercise reasonable care in supervising the employees who were

22

leading and conducting the investigation, Defendants placed those employees in a position where

23

they could cause further harm to Gruden and others through additional leaks of private information.

24

112.

Defendants’ negligent supervision of their employees and those involved in the

25

investigation was the actual and proximate cause of Gruden’s injuries, damages, and losses, which

26

are in excess of $15,000.00.

27 28

113.

It has been necessary for Plaintiff to retain attorneys to bring this Complaint.

Accordingly, Plaintiff is entitled to recover his reasonable attorney’s fees and costs incurred herein. Page 18 of 21

1

SIXTH CAUSE OF ACTION

2

(Civil Conspiracy) 114.

3 4

Plaintiff incorporates the allegations contained in the preceding and following

paragraphs as if set forth verbatim herein. 115.

5

Defendants purposefully and maliciously acted in concert with each other, and with

6

others, to release only those emails that portrayed Gruden negatively. In doing so, they intentionally

7

singled out Gruden to make him appear as the solitary bad actor at a time when Defendants were

8

facing intense public scrutiny over the mismanagement of the Washington Football Team

9

investigation. 116.

10 11

and interfere with Gruden’s contractual and prospective relationships. 117.

12 13

118.

119.

Gruden has sustained and will continue to suffer damages in excess of $15,000.00

as a direct and proximate result of Defendants’ conspiracy. 120.

18 19

Through their concerted action, Defendants caused damages to Gruden as set forth

by all the facts as stated herein.

16 17

Commissioner Goodell was a frequent target in the leaked emails and he retaliated

by harming Gruden’s reputation and ending his career with the Raiders.

14 15

Defendants also purposefully and maliciously intended to harm Gruden’s reputation

Plaintiff is entitled to exemplary and punitive damages as a result of Defendants’

oppression, fraud, or malice.

20

SEVENTH CAUSE OF ACTION

21

(Aiding and Abetting) 121.

22 23

paragraphs as if set forth verbatim herein. 122.

24 25

Plaintiff incorporates the allegations contained in the preceding and following

Defendants were aware of the conduct targeting Gruden and actively or passively

participated in the conduct by aiding one or more of the other named or unnamed Defendants. 123.

26

Defendants substantially assisted one another to accomplish the wrongful acts

27

committed against Gruden.

28

/// Page 19 of 21

124.

1 2

financial damages and harm to his career and reputation.

3

125.

4

Defendants.

5

126.

6

Defendants, and each of them, were aware of the conduct and intentions of the other

Through their concerted action, Defendants caused damages to Gruden as set forth

by all the facts as stated herein. 127.

7 8

As a result of Defendants’ actions, as alleged herein, Gruden suffered severe

Gruden has sustained and will continue to suffer damages in excess of $15,000.00

as a direct and proximate result of Defendants’ aiding and abetting. 128.

9

Plaintiff is entitled to exemplary and punitive damages as a result of Defendants’

10

oppression, fraud, or malice.

11

///

12

///

13

///

14

///

15

///

16

///

17

///

18

///

19

///

20

///

21

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22

///

23

///

24

///

25

///

26

///

27

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28

/// Page 20 of 21

PRAYER FOR RELIEF

1 2

WHEREFORE, Plaintiff requests relief as follows:

3

1.

For judgment in favor of Plaintiff and against Defendants;

4

2.

For damages caused by Defendants in an amount in excess of $15,000.00 for each

5

claim for relief;

6

3.

7

For exemplary and punitive damages in an amount no less than three times the

amount awarded to Plaintiff for compensatory damages;

8

4.

For pre-judgment and post-judgment interest as provided by law;

9

5.

For an award of attorney’s fees and costs as special damages;

10

6.

For an award of Plaintiff’s costs, disbursements, and attorney’s fees incurred in this

11

action; and

12

7.

13

Dated this 11th day of November, 2021.

14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25

For such other and further relief as the Court may deem just and proper.

MCDONALD CARANO LLP By: /s/ Adam Hosmer-Henner______________ Adam Hosmer-Henner, Esq. (NSBN 12779) Jeff Silvestri, Esq. (NSBN 5779) Rory Kay, Esq. (NSBN 12416) Chelsea Latino, Esq. (NSBN 14227) Jane Susskind, Esq. (NSBN 15099) Zachary Noland, Esq. (NSBN 15075) 2300 West Sahara Avenue, Suite 1200 Las Vegas, Nevada 89102 (702) 873-4100 [email protected] [email protected] [email protected] [email protected] [email protected] [email protected] Attorneys for Plaintiff Jon Gruden

26 27 28 Page 21 of 21

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