Vince McMahon attends a press conference at MetLife Stadium on February 16, 2012 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
Michael N. Todaro | Getty Images
WWE boss Vince McMahon was accused Thursday of sexual assault, trafficking, and physical and emotional abuse in a graphic lawsuit by a woman who previously worked for the pro wrestling giant.
The suit by Janel Grant — which alleges McMahon directed her to have sex with a WWE “superstar” and other men — seeks to void a nondisclosure agreement that Grant says she reached with McMahon in 2022. She said he agreed to pay her $3 million as part of that deal.
The suit says McMahon only paid her $1 million, “but failed to make any further payments.” Grant was one of several women who received payouts from McMahon over the years.
In addition to the 78-year-old McMahon, the suit filed in U.S. District Court in Connecticut names WWE and John Laurinaitis, the former head of talent relations and general manager, as defendants.
The complaint comes six months after federal lawsuit enforcement agents executed a search warrant on McMahon and served him with a grand jury subpoena as part of an investigation into McMahon’s payment of millions of dollars to multiple women after allegations of sexual misconduct.
McMahon last March paid WWE $17.4 million to cover costs related to a probe of the payouts by a law firm retained by the company.
WWE merged last year with the mixed martial arts company UFC. Both companies are now owned by TKO Group Holdings.
McMahon is executive chairman of the board of TKO, which on Tuesday announced that Netflix would pay $5 billion over 10 years to stream the WWE’s flagship program “Raw,” and carry all other WWE shows and specials outside the United States.
Grant”s lawyer, Ann Callis, in a statement, said, “Today’s complaint seeks to hold accountable two WWE executives who sexually assaulted and trafficked Plaintiff Janel Grant, as well as the organization that facilitated or turned a blind eye to the abuse and then swept it under the rug.”
“She is an incredibly private and courageous person who has suffered deeply at the hands of Mr. McMahon and Mr. Laurinaitis,” Callis said. “Ms. Grant hopes that her lawsuit will prevent other women from being victimized. The organization is well aware of Mr. McMahon’s history of depraved behavior, and it’s time that they take responsibility for the misconduct of its leadership.”
Spokespeople for the WWE and TKO did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The complaint says McMahon befriended Grant, who was his neighbor in an apartment building, in 2019 after learning from the building’s resident manager that her parents had died and that she was looking for a job.
Grant alleges that McMahon soon pressured her into a sexual relationship, which she succumbed to.
“When McMahon pushed Ms. Grant for a physical relationship in return for long-promised employment at WWE, she felt trapped in an impossible situation: submitting to McMahon’s sexual demands or facing ruin,” the suit says.
The suit also alleges: “Given McMahon’s omnipotent position at WWE, coercion was inherent in his
increasingly depraved sexual demands.”
“Specifically, while McMahon was CEO of WWE and Ms. Grant was employed as an entry level coordinator in the legal department, McMahon recruited individuals to have sexual relations with Ms. Grant and/or with the two of them, directed Ms. Grant to visit Defendant Laurinaitis prior to the start of workdays for sexual encounters, and expected and directed Ms. Grant to engage in sexual activity at the WWE headquarters, even during working hours,” the suit says.
The complaint accuses McMahon of subjecting her to “extreme cruelty and degradation” that caused Grant to become “numb to reality to survive the horrific encounters.”
In January 2022, the suit says, McMahon told Grant he could no longer speak to her or be seen in the same room as her because his wife, Linda McMahon, had learned about their relationship
In addition to seeking to void the NDA, Grant’s suit also alleges violations of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, negligence, intentional or negligent infliction of emotional distress and civil battery.
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