Some of the vulgar emails that led to Jon Gruden’s resignation were submitted in court filings by Washington Football Team owner Daniel Snyder four months ago, in an effort to compel former team executive Bruce Allen to hand over documents in an unrelated legal matter.
The emails, which were filed in federal court in Arizona and obtained by USA TODAY Sports on Wednesday, contain several of the exchanges between Gruden and Allen that were reported by The New York Times on Monday night – including one in which Gruden refers to commissioner Roger Goodell as a “clueless anti football (expletive).”
Gruden’s name and email address are redacted in the court filings, which refer only to exchanges between Allen and “a popular then-current ESPN on-air personality.” Goodell’s name is also redacted and replaced with “Football Person.”
Gruden, 58, resigned as head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders on Monday.
Snyder’s legal team filed the emails in June in an effort to illustrate Allen’s relationship with members of the news media, as part of a broader legal undertaking to identify the source of negative articles published about him over the summer by an India-based media company. Snyder is suing the company for defamation.
In court records, Allen denied having any connection with the articles and said he had never contacted or been contacted by “anyone connected to any Indian internet or media entity or publication.”
His attorneys did not immediately reply to a request for comment Wednesday morning.
The emails between Allen and Gruden, who previously worked together in Oakland and Tampa Bay, offer a window into the private discussions of two longtime NFL decisionmakers. They show Gruden using a homophobic term when referring to one team’s decision to draft an openly gay player, and Allen describing a former executive as a “dolt” and an unnamed player as a “thug.”
The emails also show communication between Allen, who was fired by Washington at the conclusion of the 2019 season, and other news media members.
In one email from 2018, Allen shares his views on players who kneel during the national anthem with Mark Levin, the host of a conservative radio talk show. Allen tells Levin that the overwhelming majority of NFL players have never considered kneeling and “the 10% of the players and owners are the issue (see Jeff Lurie & 49ers owner).”
Another exchange shows ESPN reporter Adam Schefter asking Allen for feedback on a 2011 story.
Schefter sent a draft of the story to Allen, whom he refers to as “Mr. Editor,” and told him to “please let me know if you see anything that should be added, changed, tweaked.” It is uncommon for journalists to provide a draft of a story to a source prior to publication.
“I’ve learned for a long time in this business not to discuss sources, or the process, or how stories are done,” Schefter said when asked about the exchange during an appearance with 97.5 The Fanatic in Philadelphia on Wednesday morning.
“But I would just say that, basically, it’s a common practice to run information past sources, and in this particular case, during a labor intensive lockout that was a complicated subject that was new to understand, I took the extra rare step again to run information past one of the people that I was talking to. You know, it was an important story to fans, a host of others, and that’s the situation.”
ESPN said in a statement that, “without sharing all the specifics of the reporter’s process for a story from 10 years ago during the NFL lockout, we believe that nothing is more important to Adam and ESPN than providing fans the most accurate, fair and complete story.”
The Los Angeles Times first reported the exchange between Allen and Schefter on Tuesday night, while The Washington Post first reported that some of the emails between Allen and Gruden were contained in the Arizona court filings.
Contact Tom Schad at [email protected] or on Twitter @Tom_Schad.