Raiders owner Mark Davis and coach Jon Gruden parted ways following the release of more offensive emails from the coach during his tenure as an ESPN broadcaster, something the owner did begrudgingly after opting initially not to punish Gruden himself despite being aware of the emails.
Davis has turned his ire toward the league office, according to sources with knowledge of the situation, becoming very emotional at the meeting in which Gruden departed and mulling potential legal options. Davis has told others that he believes influential figures within the league office were intent on forcing Gruden out through calculated media leaks of the emails that contained racist tropes and homophobic slurs.
The NFL has denied being behind stories in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times that included Gruden’s emails, which were obtained as part of its investigation into the toxic culture of the Washington franchise. (Gruden was corresponding with longtime associate Bruce Allen, who was president of the team at this time.)
“He thinks the league office is out to get him,” said one source who has spoken to Davis. “He thinks it’s a hit job.”
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The Davis family has a history of clashes with the league and commissioners, and the late Al Davis took the league to court as he moved the franchise several times. Mark Davis has said very little about the situation publicly but has let his consternation be known in various ways to team employees and those in his orbit. It remains to be seen if there is still a financial settlement between Davis and Gruden over the remainder of his contract; he was not seeking to terminate Gruden for cause and was happy with where the franchise was under him, and has long been an admirer of the coach. There was no legal discussion of Gruden’s contract at the time of his departure, though at some point it will be discussed.
For as much scrutiny and rebuke as Gruden’s emails have drawn throughout the sport, from other coaches and executives, Davis continued to support him and has been livid over the nature in which the emails came to light, as part of a probe into a different team that spanned over a decade and did not pertain to Gruden’s time with the Raiders or as a team or league employee. He has railed over the fact that no WFT execs or officials lost their jobs over that investigation and that his now ex-coach has become the face for this probe.
Members of other front offices and ownership groups believe this controversy will make for some fireworks at the upcoming NFL meetings in New York this month, with Davis upset with Commissioner Roger Goodell and others in the league office. Davis has generally kept a lower profile at these meetings than his father did, but that could be changing now.
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