LAS VEGAS -- A Nevada judge ruled in favor of former Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden on two motions Wednesday, opening the possibility of a jury trial on his "tortious interference" claim that the NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell selectively leaked Gruden's emails to force his removal on Oct. 11.
Judge Nancy L. Allf denied the NFL's motion to compel arbitration as well as the league's motion to dismiss the case outright. The suit will now go to trial unless a settlement is reached. Allf gave no timeline, though, for the next proceeding.
The NFL said in a statement given to multiple media outlets that it would appeal.
"We believe Coach Gruden's claims should have been compelled to arbitration, and we will file an appeal of the Court's determination. The Court's denial of our motion to dismiss is not a determination on the merits of Coach Gruden's lawsuit, which, as we have said from the outset, lacks a basis in law and fact and proceeds from a false premise -- neither the NFL nor the Commissioner leaked Coach Gruden's offensive emails."
Gruden was in attendance as his attorney, Adam Hosmer-Henner of McDonald Carano, made the oral arguments while outside counsel Kannon Shanmugam argued on behalf of the NFL.
"I'm just going to let the process take care of itself," Gruden said upon leaving the courtroom. "It's good to be back in Vegas. I'm going to see some friends tonight.
Gruden was asked if he was looking forward to the discovery process, which could lead to the release of leaguewide incriminating emails found in the workplace investigation of the Washington NFL franchise now called the Commanders.
"The process will all take care of itself," Gruden said.
While the NFL argued that arbitration was necessary because of his contract with the Raiders, Gruden's legal team countered that after resigning as coach and taking a settlement from the Raiders, he was no longer a league employee and, therefore, no longer bound to arbitration.
Judge Allf agreed, saying she was "concerned" with Goodell having sole power as a potential arbiter.
Gruden initially filed suit on Nov. 12 in the Eighth Judicial District Court in Clark County, Nevada. He had resigned as coach on Oct. 11 after emails were leaked that included racist, anti-gay and misogynistic language that was "not fit to be repeated in a public courtroom," Shanmugam said.
Gruden's suit alleges that the NFL leaked his emails, which had been in the league's possession since June 2021, to the Wall Street Journal and New York Times in October in an effort to "harm Gruden's reputation and force him out of his job," Hosmer-Henner said in a November statement.
"There is no explanation or justification for why Gruden's emails were the only ones made public out of the 650,000 emails collected ... or for why the emails were held for months before being released in the middle of the Raiders' season," the statement said.
Hosmer-Henner intimated Wednesday that Goodell held the emails and called the Raiders and threatened to release more if the team did not fire Gruden.
"Ask the NFL," Raiders owner Mark Davis told ESPN at the time. "They have all the answers."
Gruden was the Raiders' coach from 1998 to 2001 before coaching the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2002 to '08 and beating the Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII. After that, he served as an analyst for ESPN's Monday Night Football from 2009 to '17.
Davis hired Gruden to return as coach of the Raiders in January 2018 with a 10-year, $100 million contract.