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#pounditFriday, January 28, 2022

Legal Matters

NFL files to dismiss Jon Gruden lawsuit, says there were more emails

Jon Gruden smiles

Jon Gruden filed a lawsuit against the NFL back in November claiming the league intentionally leaked his private emails in order to ruin his career. The NFL immediately responded by denying the allegations, and they have now backed up that denial with a court filing.

The NFL filed a motion to dismiss Gruden’s lawsuit in Nevada this week, according to Daniel Kaplan of The Athletic. In the filing, the league’s attorneys argue that Gruden sent offensive emails to at least five other recipients besides former Washington Football Team executive Bruce Allen.

“Gruden sent a variety of similarly abhorrent emails to a half dozen recipients over a seven-year period, in which he denounced ‘the emergence of women as referees,’ and frequently used homophobic and sexist slurs to refer to Commissioner Goodell, then-Vice President Joseph Biden, a gay professional football player drafted in 2014, and others,” the NFL’s attorneys wrote in the filing.

The emails that led to Gruden’s resignation leaked as part of an investigation into workplace misconduct with the Washington Football Team. In one of them, Gruden mocked NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith over the size of his lips. More emails leaked days later in which Gruden used a gay slur and other problematic language.

In the motion to dismiss, the NFL argues that the emails were damaging to both Gruden and the league. The league also says the emails, which it insists were not intentionally leaked, “would have and could have permitted the Commissioner himself to sanction and fire Gruden.”

More than 650,000 emails were reviewed as part of the WFT investigation, but the NFL has reportedly claimed Gruden’s were the only damaging ones.

The lawsuit from Gruden may not be the only one the NFL faces over the situation.

Photo: Aug 18, 2021; Thousand Oaks, CA, USA; Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden during a joint practice against the Los Angeles Rams. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Floyd Mayweather being sued for hyping failed cryptocurrency in alleged scheme

Floyd Mayweather at the podium

Floyd Mayweather Jr. is among the influencers being sued for hyping a failed cryptocurrency investment.

An investor named Ryan Huegerich filed a class action lawsuit on January 7 in which he alleged that Mayweather and other celebrities promoted a cryptocurrency called “EthereumMax” in a pump-and-dump scheme.

The suit alleges that Mayweather, along with Kim Kardashian and Paul Pierce, were paid to hype up EthereumMax. EthereumMax has no connection to the widely known cryptocurrency and internet platform, Ethereum.

Mayweather made EthereumMax the official cryptocurrency for his fight with Logan Paul last year.

The suit argues that thanks to the hype generated by these celebrities, including Mayweather, the price of EthereumMax spiked 1,370 percent at its peak, while trading volume increased by over 600 percent. The price of EthereumMax then crashed 98 percent, leaving those who purchased the asset amid the hype and did not sell, holding worthless assets. You can see the EthereumMax chart here.

The celebrities who promoted the digital tokens, as well as the EthereumMax founders, are accused of selling their assets after the price was pumped up.

Mayweather was fined in 2018 by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for hyping up cryptocurrency without disclosing he had been paid to do so.

You can read the entire lawsuit here.

Photo: Stephanie Trapp/Mayweather Promotions/Premier Boxing Champions

LaMelo Ball sued by publicist for millions over shoe deal

LaMelo Ball makes a hand gesture

LaMelo Ball signed a massive endorsement deal with Puma ahead of the 2020 NBA Draft, and a publicist claims the Charlotte Hornets star never paid her what he owed her for helping him secure the contract.

According to a lawsuit obtained by TMZ, publicist Amber Johnson says Ball hired her in 2019 to help him secure endorsement deals. She says she helped him land a video game streaming show, so Ball asked her to continue working with him. But after Ball signed his $100 million deal with Puma, Johnson says the 20-year-old never paid her.

Johnson says Ball and his representatives agreed to give her 10 percent of any business deal she helped Ball secure. She claims she helped facilitate Ball’s deal with Puma and is entitled to 10 percent of that, as well as $4,800 in expenses for which she was never reimbursed from various other projects.

Johnson is seeking damages in excess of $10 million.

Ball is averaging 19.3 points, 7.6 assists and 7.3 rebounds per game in his second NBA season. He has already made some noteworthy connections since coming into the league. Now, he’s facing his first mega-lawsuit.

Photo: Jan 8, 2022; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball (2) reacts after making a three point basket against the Milwaukee Bucks during the second period at the Spectrum Center. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Jaguars facing embarrassing lawsuit from major sponsor

Shad Khan smiling

The Jacksonville Jaguars have suffered through an embarrassing season from start to finish in 2021. The campaign appears to be ending in appropriate fashion, with the franchise facing a very embarrassing lawsuit from a primary sponsor.

RoofClaim.com, a Georgia-based roofing company, is suing the Jaguars in a bid to disassociate the brand with the team’s final regular season game. The company fears “irreparable harm” for being associated with the game, in which a group of fans plans to dress up as clowns to protest owner Shad Khan’s decision to retain GM Trent Baalke.

In a complaint filed Thursday in Jacksonville, RoofClaim.com stated that it wanted to avoid “its brand being emphasized as the primary sponsor of the clown game,” via Mark Long of the Associated Press. The claim, originally obtained by the Florida Times-Union, argues that the Jaguars “utterly failed to provide the sponsorship benefits outlined in the agreement” by creating a “toxic marketing environment.”

The Jaguars said the lawsuit was “baseless and without merit.”

Some Jaguars fans plan to participate in a “Klown Out” for Sunday’s game against the Indianapolis Colts to register their displeasure with the decision to keep Baalke as GM. While it is unclear how many fans will participate, there is clearly some fear that the number will be fairly high if a company is willing to go to court over this.

Beyond the fact that Baalke has few successful personnel moves to point to in Jacksonville, there are rumors he may be hindering the team’s head coaching search. Now, fairly or not, his presence has led to the phrase “clown game” being attached to the team’s season finale in a legal filing. That has to be pretty embarrassing for Khan and the organization as a whole.

Photo: Oct 17, 2021; London, England, United Kingdom; Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan (Shahid Khan) watches from the sidelines during an NFL International Series game against the Miami Dolphins at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Clinton Portis sentenced to six months in prison for insurance fraud

Clinton Portis

Former NFL running back Clinton Portis was sentenced to prison time Thursday for his role in defrauding a benefit program for former NFL players.

Portis was sentenced to six months in prison and six months of home confinement stemming from the insurance fraud charges. The former running back was convicted of obtaining nearly $100,000 by filing false claims for medical equipment that was not provided. The target was the NFL’s Gene Upshaw NFL Player Health Reimbursement Account Plan, which is designed to aid retired players in paying for medical expenses. Portis and a number of other players were accused of filing false claims worth about $2.9 million in total, and 15 ex-players have pled guilty as part of the scheme.

Portis originally faced up to 10 years in prison for the charges. The Department of Justice had recommended a 10-to-16 month sentence after he pled guilty.

The 40-year-old Portis played for Denver and Washington over the course of nine NFL seasons, and was twice named to the Pro Bowl. As recently as August, he was facing other unrelated legal issues as well.

Ex-USC player arrested on federal charges for alleged COVID scheme

USC Trojans logo

A former USC football player was arrested this week and is facing several charges stemming from an alleged COVID-19-related fraud scheme.

Abdul-Malik McClain, who transferred from USC to Jackson State last November, was arrested on Monday in Los Angeles and charged with 10 counts of mail fraud and two counts of aggravated identity theft. McClain and other football players are accused of orchestrating a scheme to claim COVID-related unemployment benefits.

McClain was indicted by a federal grand jury on Dec. 16 after prosecutors determined he and his associates filed more than 30 fraudulent applications seeking a total of more than $900,000. Roughly $227,000 of the money was paid out, according to Brian Rokos of the Los Angeles Daily News.

“While a member of his university’s football team, McClain organized and assisted a group of other football players in filing fraudulent claims for unemployment benefits, including under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program established by Congress in response to the pandemic’s economic fallout,” the indictment says. “The indictment … contained false information about the football players’ supposed prior employment, pandemic-related job loss, and job-seeking efforts in California.”

The players were allegedly mailed debit cards from Bank of America that were loaded with hundreds of thousands in unemployment benefits. They used the cards to withdraw cash from ATMs.

McClain was released after posting $20,000 bond. He is due back in court on Feb. 15. No other arrests were announced on Monday.

Abdul-Malik’s brother, Munir McClain, was suspended by USC last year amid a federal probe into unemployment benefit fraud. Munir has since transferred to Utah. The McClains said at the time that they applied for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and helped other USC players.

McClain, a linebacker, had three total tackles at Jackson State this season.

Investigators considering misdemeanor charges for Deshaun Watson

Deshaun Watson in pads

We haven’t heard much regarding Deshaun Watson for several weeks, but now there may be some more clarity regarding any criminal charges he could face.

Watson was accused of inappropriate sexual behavior by over 20 women, who filed civil suits against him. Many of the women also went to police with the allegations.

The Houston Chronicle published a report on Thursday regarding the Watson case. According to them, search warrant records say investigators are considering indecent assault as a possible criminal charge. Indecent assault is a misdemeanor crime.

The allegations from the women all showed a similar pattern of behavior from Watson. The Houston Texans quarterback is accused of contacting multiple women, typically via social media, and arranging for massages. During the massages, Watson would allegedly pressure the women into performing sex acts on him.

Watson has not played at all this season, but he was the subject of multiple trade rumors. The Miami Dolphins were considering him but did not end up making a trade for him. The 26-year-old played in all 16 games last season for Houston, which went 4-12.

Photo: Aug 17, 2019; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) before a game against the Detroit Lions at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

OJ Simpson is now ‘a completely free man’

OJ Simpson at a parole hearing

OJ Simpson was released from prison on Oct. 1, 2017, but it wasn’t until two weeks ago that the Hall of Fame running back officially became a free man.

Nevada State Police spokeswoman Kim Yoko Smith told Ken Ritter of The Associated Press on Tuesday that Simpson was discharged from parole on Dec. 1. The 74-year-old was originally supposed to be on parole until Sept. 29, 2022, but he was discharged several months early due to good behavior.

“Mr. Simpson is a completely free man now,” Malcolm LaVergne, Simpson’s Las Vegas attorney, said.

Simpson has been living in a gated community in Las Vegas since his release from prison. He served nine years for armed robbery and kidnapping stemming from a confrontation with two sports collectibles dealers at a Vegas casino hotel in 2007. Simpson argued that he only wanted to retrieve memorabilia that was stolen from him years ago after he was acquitted in the double murder of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman.

Simpson has made some public appearances at sporting events since he was released in 2017. He has also been very vocal in sharing his sports takes on social media.

Despite all the legal trouble he has had, the former Buffalo Bills star still has plenty of money coming his way.

Photo: Jason Bean/USA TODAY NETWORK

Tristan Thompson sued by woman who claims to be pregnant with his child

Tristan Thompson

Tristan Thompson is about to become the father to a third child, according to a woman who has filed a lawsuit against the NBA star.

According to court documents obtained by The Daily Mail, a 31-year-old woman named Maralee Nichols filed a lawsuit against Thompson several months ago seeking child support and reimbursement of pregnancy-related costs. Nichols, whose due date is Friday, says the child was conceived in Houston, Texas, during Thompson’s 30th birthday celebrations. Thompson responded to the lawsuit with a court declaration in August.

In his statement, Thompson refers to Nichols as a former friend. He admitted to having sexual intercourse with her multiple times the night the two attended a party together, but he said that is the only time they were intimate. Nichols claims she and Thompson had a relationship for at least five months leading up to the child’s conception and that she visited Thompson in California several times after. She used to live in Houston but has since moved to Los Angeles.

Thompson was still dating Khloe Kardashian at the time of his sexual encounter with Nichols. The Sacramento Kings center had an off-and-on relationship with Kardashian and was accused of cheating on her numerous times.

Thompson did not deny that he is the father of the unborn child, but he said he will be seeking a paternity test once the child is born. The 30-year-old shares a 3-year-old daughter with Kardashian. He also has a 4-year-old son with his ex-girlfriend Jordan Craig.

The alleged affair would be on-brand for Thompson. His name is constantly in the gossip tabloids, which is something fans love to get on him for. A fan was reportedly ejected from a game recently for making a comment about Thompson’s personal life.

Shaq suing former marijuana business partners for $1 million

Shaq sitting courtside

Shaquille O’Neal invested a substantial amount of money in a marijuana business, and the Hall of Famer says he has nothing to show for it. He is hoping a lawsuit will change that.

O’Neal filed a lawsuit recently claiming he and his fellow plaintiff, Jerome Crawford, invested $150,000 in a marijuana business back in 2016. The suit, which was obtained by TMZ, claims the men invested the money so the company could “pursue opportunities in the field of legal cannabis.” By late 2017, they say the company had “seemingly had no licenses, no revenue, and no operations.”

Shaq’s attorney pressed the company for details on how the money he invested was being spent. After the questions were initially ignored, O’Neal’s legal team threatened litigation. The company then agreed to pay O’Neal and Crawford their money in $10,000 installments. Only $20,000 of that was paid, according to the lawsuit.

O’Neal and Crawford are seeking their initial investment back plus interest. They also want damages in excess of $1 million after they claim the company was mismanaged.

Shaq has made numerous investments since he retired from playing in 2011. They obviously have not all been successful.

Photo: Mar 10, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; NBA former player Shaquille O’Neal watches a game between the Atlanta Hawks and Toronto Raptors in the third quarter at Philips Arena. The Hawks won 105-99. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports