Tuesday October 3, 2023

Could Jon Gruden’s Work With Saints Impact NFL Lawsuit?

  • Gruden visited New Orleans Saints practices as his lawsuit remains on hold pending an NFL appeal.
  • The NFL argued again in a filing this week that the lawsuit should be compelled to arbitration.
Jon Gruden
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Jon Gruden’s appearance at New Orleans Saints practices a couple weeks could factor into future legal arguments in his lawsuit against the NFL. 

In the latest filing by the NFL as part of its appeal related to Gruden’s lawsuit against the league, those emails allow NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to declare the exchanges to trigger the “conduct detrimental” language laid out in the NFL Constitution and Bylaws. 

And, in turn, the NFL argued that the case should be compelled to arbitration in the reply brief filed in Nevada State Supreme Court on Tuesday. 

“[Gruden] entered his record-setting employment agreement with full knowledge of the Commissioner’s role in the NFL and express approval that he may oversee any future arbitration,”  Maximilien D. Fetaz, one of the NFL’s lawyers, wrote in the brief. 

That raises a couple questions: If the leaked racist, misogynistic, and homophobic emails were enough to trigger the resignation of Gruden as head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders in October 2021, why was there no apparent punishment of Gruden by the NFL? And could the NFL have even punish Gruden since those emails were sent between 2011 and 2018 when he was working at ESPN as an NFL analyst?

“The NFL did not attach a declaration from Commissioner Goodell, or any evidence supporting their theory that the conduct alleged in the complaint was deemed conduct detrimental to the best interests of the NFL or professional football,” Gruden’s attorney, Adam Hosmer-Henner, wrote in an April brief. 

District Court Judge Nancy Allf wrote in the October ruling that the NFL is challenging that the NFL “did not produce any evidence showing that Commissioner Goodell was of the opinion that the instant dispute constituted conduct detrimental to the best interests of the NFL or professional football or any evidence showing that Commissioner Goodell had made such a decision or issued such an opinion.”

Minus any disciplinary action against Gruden, there doesn’t appear to be anything that would bar him from coaching for or consulting with NFL teams — outside the blowback on the team over the leaked emails.

A message left with an NFL spokesperson was not returned.  

“Obviously, Jon’s a guy that has a lot of experience with (quarterback) Derek (Carr), and Derek has had his most success under Jon Gruden,” Saints head coach Dennis Allen said per ESPN. “…You ask everybody that was involved, and they thought it was really beneficial for our football team.”

Conversely, Gruden working with an NFL team could actually aid the NFL if a jury finds in favor of Gruden. In the original complaint filed in November 2021, Gruden claimed the leaked emails resulted in “significant injuries to his reputation that will affect his future employment prospects and endorsement opportunities.”

Attorney Dan Lust said if the case gets to a verdict and Gruden prevails, his work with an NFL team could work in the league’s favor.

“Gruden’s involvement with the Saints seems to shows that his reputation isn’t so damaged that he’s unable to work alongside or with other NFL teams,” said Lust, co-host of the Conduct Detrimental podcast.

Gruden’s legal team alleged the NFL pressured the Raiders to fire Gruden after the first batch of leaked emails that included a racist trope directed at NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith. 

When the Raiders didn’t fire Gruden, the lawsuit alleged the NFL “followed through with this threat by leaking another batch of documents.” The were scooped as part of the NFL’s first outside investigation of the Washington Commanders. 

The NFL has long denied it was the source of the leaks, although there was no denial in the league’s Nevada State Supreme Court filing on May 30. 

The NFL filed its notice of appeal in October to challenge Allf’s ruling that Gruden’s case could remain in her court and not part of the NFL’s arbitration process. 

Allf also previously denied the NFL’s motion to dismiss the case. 

There’s a stay in the case pending the outcome of the NFL’s appeal. 

The case is expected to have oral arguments, which are expected to be announced by the Nevada State Supreme Court in the coming weeks and occur before the year’s end. 

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