Former Las Vegas Raiders coach defends stance on arbitration; NFL seeks reversal

Former Las Vegas Raiders coach defends stance on arbitration; NFL seeks reversal

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LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Calling his legal position “disingenuous,” lawyers for the National Football League said former Las Vegas Raiders head coach and television personality Jon Gruden should be forced to arbitrate his claim against the league and its commissioner and that he should be prevented from recouping any additional money after settling out of court for an undisclosed amount with his former employer.

“Gruden now seeks an additional payday for his reprehensible conduct,” Kannon Shanmugam, the NFL’s appellate attorney told justices of the Nevada Supreme Court in Las Vegas Wednesday. 

Gruden resigned from the Raiders on Oct. 11, 2021, after an email showing he used racist, misogynistic, and homophobic comments. A New York Times investigation revealed Gruden had not only used racist comments in 2011 but had regularly used derogatory language in emails during his employment with ESPN.

“Emails that are too vile to read out in open court,” Shanmugam said.

Gruden, who at one time had the richest coaching contract in NFL history appeared in court with his attorneys defending their argument which a lower court judge agreed with in October 2022.

That decision, the topic of Wednesday’s hearing, essentially allows Gruden to avoid arbitration and continue its lawsuit against the league and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. The NFL lawyers argued that an arbitration clause in the NFL constitution applies to Gruden as an employee of the league.

But Gruden, who alleges the NFL pressured the Raiders to fire Gruden and destroyed his reputation, says he should not be bound by the 450-page NFL constitution because he is a former employee and no longer under the NFL’s control. Further, Gruden’s attorney argued that Gruden had never even seen that document.

“Coach Gruden had no opportunity to negotiate the NFL constitution” Adam Hosmer-Henner, Gruden’s attorney, said. “He couldn’t request a modification of it. He had to comply with it in order to get the job that he has trained his entire life for.” 

Hosmer-Henner said the arbitration clause at issue would allow Goodell to oversee or determine the scope of the arbitration, which Gruden says is not acceptable.

“Coach Gruden is required to arbitrate in front of the very parties that he is suing,” Hosmer-Henner said of the rules under the NFL constitution. “They are the defendants in this action.”

Hosmer-Henner, under questioning from Nevada Supreme Court Chief Justice Elissa F. Cadish, admitted Gruden did not have an attorney with him when he signed his contract with the Raiders.

“He negotiated this contract with the Raiders without counsel to review it?” Cadish asked.

“There is nothing in the record indicating that he had counsel present when he signed it or that it was explained to him,” Hosmer-Henner answered. “He had his agent with him and that is the only piece of evidence in the record. These contracts are negotiated in a matter of hours.”

The justices took the arguments under advisement at the conclusion of the hearing. The court will issue its ruling in writing.

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