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New details emerge about Jon Gruden email leaks

Jon Gruden in a Raiders hat

Sep 19, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden takes the field before the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Jon Gruden believes the NFL was responsible for leaking the emails that led to his ousting as the head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders nearly two years ago, and there are some prominent people around the league who agree.

Don Van Natta Jr. and Seth Wickersham of ESPN published a lengthy piece on Wednesday that sheds light on the complicated question of how Gruden’s infamous emails came to light. The reporters conducted “months of interviews with executives, lawyers, agents, and league and team officials” and learned that four team owners believe commissioner Roger Goodell was directly involved in the leaks. NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy reiterated to ESPN that the NFL had nothing to do with the emails getting out.

Another source with direct knowledge of the situation told ESPN that NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith bragged that he was responsible for one particular Gruden email being leaked. In that email, which was sent to former Washington Commanders president Bruce Allen, Gruden wrote that Smith has “lips the size of michellin tires.” Many felt that was a racist trope, though Gruden offered a different explanation.

The other popular theory is that soon-to-be-ex-Commanders owner Daniel Snyder leaked the emails. Some sources told ESPN that they believe Snyder wanted to “deflect blame for workplace issues” that were being investigated with his team.

The idea is that Snyder could blame Allen, who was on the other end of the Gruden emails, for the problematic culture in Washington while also helping Goodell stick it to a “longtime antagonist” in Gruden. Some of Gruden’s leaked emails took aim at Goodell and used harsh language against the commissioner.

Gruden, who is suing the NFL, still insists the league had it out for him. He said in a statement to ESPN that he finds it “ridiculous the league thought they could cherry-pick emails from years ago, when I wasn’t even a coach and try to end my career.”

“At a minimum, I deserved the opportunity to respond and receive some due process,” Gruden said.

There are several other wrinkles uncovered in the ESPN piece, which is worth reading in its entirety.

Allen made a big claim about the leaks in sworn testimony late last year. Depending on how Gruden’s lawsuit against the NFL turns out, we may never get a definitive answer.


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