Nevada Supreme Court panel rules in favor of NFL in Jon Gruden lawsuit; case to go to arbitration pending appeal

A three-judge panel of the Nevada Supreme Court ruled in favor of the NFL on Tuesday regarding Jon Gruden's lawsuit against the league.

Via a 2-1 vote, justices ruled that Gruden's dispute is subject to league arbitration, overturning a district court ruling that his lawsuit against the NFL could move forward. Hearings were held in January in front of the three-justice panel — not the full court that consists of seven justices.

The ruling means that — barring a successful appeal — the long-running dispute between the league and the former Las Vegas Raiders head coach will be settled in closed-door arbitration rather than in public via the legal system.

Gruden resigned from his job as Raiders head coach in 2021 after a New York Times report exposed his email exchanges with former Washington Football Team executive Bruce Allen, among others, that showed his repeated use of racist, anti-gay and misogynistic language.

Gruden sued the NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell in 2021, accusing them of plotting to destroy his career via a "malicious and orchestrated campaign" by leaking those emails. The emails surfaced from an investigation into the Washington Commanders and then-team owner Daniel Snyder.

The lawsuit argues that Gruden was targeted in the alleged leaks and that "there is no explanation or justification" for why the correspondence of others in the league was not exposed. Gruden had previously vowed that "the truth will come out" regarding unnamed others around the NFL.

The NFL has since made multiple attempts to strike down the lawsuit, arguing that a clause in Gruden's contract with the Raiders requires him to seek dispute settlement via arbitration. Gruden's attorneys have argued that the clause doesn't apply since he his no longer an employee of the Raiders and that his dispute is with the NFL, not the Raiders.

In 2022, Nevada 8th Judicial District Court Judge Nancy Allf denied the NFL's effort to dismiss the lawsuit and ruled that the case could continue in open court.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy dismissed Gruden's lawsuit as meritless after the district court ruling and vowed to appeal.

"The allegations are entirely meritless and the NFL will vigorously defend against these claims," McCarthy's 2022 statement reads.

Tuesday's ruling by the three-judge panel overturned the district court ruling.

Justices Elissa F. Cadish and Kristina Pickering ruled in the majority.

"Public policy favors enforcement of a valid arbitration clause and we cannot say with positive assurance that the NFL Constitution arbitration clause is not susceptible to the NFL Parties' interpretation," the 19-page ruling reads. "We therefore conclude that Gruden must submit to arbitration under the NFL Constitution arbitration clause."

Justice Linda Marie Bell voted in the minority and issued a dissent, arguing that the arbitration clause does not apply to former employees.

"I disagree with their conclusion because the facts of this case do not support survival of the clause past the end of Gruden's employment," Bell wrote.

Per ESPN, Gruden's attroney Adam Hosmer-Henner vowed to appeal the decision to the full seven-justice Supreme Court.

"The panel's split decision would leave Nevada an outlier where an employer can unilaterally determine whether an employee's dispute must go to arbitration and also allow the employer to adjudicate the dispute as the arbitrator," Hosmer-Henner said.

The NFL did not issues a public response immediately after the ruling.

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