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Former employee files sex abuse lawsuit against WWE, Vince McMahon

McMahon stepped down as WWE’s CEO in 2022 amid an investigation into allegations that match those in the lawsuit.
 
A former WWE employee filed a federal lawsuit Thursday accusing executive Vince McMahon, pictured, and another former executive of serious sexual misconduct.
A former WWE employee filed a federal lawsuit Thursday accusing executive Vince McMahon, pictured, and another former executive of serious sexual misconduct. [ ETHAN MILLER | Getty Images North America ]
Published Jan. 26|Updated Jan. 27

UPDATE (Saturday): Vince McMahon resigned Friday from WWE’s parent company the day after a former employee filed a federal lawsuit accusing him and another former executive of serious sexual misconduct.

DEVELOPING: A former WWE employee filed a federal lawsuit Thursday accusing executive Vince McMahon and another former executive of serious sexual misconduct, including offering her to a star wrestler for sex.

The graphic 67-page suit from Janel Grant, who worked in the company’s legal and talent departments, also includes allegations that McMahon, now 78, forced her into a sexual relationship in order for her to get and keep a job and passed around pornographic pictures and videos of her to other men, including other WWE employees.

The news comes as one of WWE’s biggest events of the year is poised to get underway Saturday night at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. Royal Rumble, one of the pro wrestling circuit’s five jewel events, is expected to break attendance records at the Rays’ home stadium. The show, which begins at 8 p.m. and will be streamed exclusively on Peacock, is highlighted by 30-wrestler men’s and women’s rumbles.

McMahon stepped down as WWE’s CEO in 2022 amid an investigation into allegations that match those in the lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court in Connecticut, where WWE is based.

Grant also names as defendants in the lawsuit the WWE and John Laurinaitis, the company’s former head of talent relations and general manager.

The AP typically does not name accusers in sexual assault cases, but Grant’s representatives said she wished to go public.

“Ms. Grant hopes that her lawsuit will prevent other women from being victimized,” her attorney, Ann Callis, said in a statement. “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.”

WWE’s parent company, TKO Group, issued a statement saying it is taking the allegations seriously.

“Mr. McMahon does not control TKO nor does he oversee the day-to-day operations of WWE,” TKO Group said in a statement. “While this matter pre-dates our TKO executive team’s tenure at the company, we take Ms. Grant’s horrific allegations very seriously and are addressing this matter internally.”

Email and social media messages seeking comment were also left for McMahon and Laurinaitis.

According to the lawsuit, McMahon lived in the same building as Grant and in 2019 offered to get her a job at WWE after her parents died.

She alleges that he eventually made it clear that one of the requirements of the job was a physical relationship with him and later with Laurinaitis and others.

Over the next few years, McMahon lavished her with gifts including a luxury car, the suit says.

It also alleges that McMahon offered one of his star wrestlers — a person not named in the lawsuit — sex with Grant as a perk in 2021.

“WWE benefited financially from the commercial sex act venture orchestrated by McMahon, including by having wrestling talent, such as WWE Superstar, sign new contracts with WWE after McMahon presented Plaintiff as a sexual commodity for their use,” the lawsuit states.

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Grant is seeking unspecified monetary damages and to have the court void a $3 million nondisclosure agreement, of which she alleges she received only $1 million.

McMahon was the leader and most recognizable face at WWE for decades. When he purchased what was then the World Wrestling Federation from his father in 1982, wrestling matches took place at small venues and appeared on local cable channels.

WWE matches are now held in professional sports stadiums, and the organization has a sizable overseas following.

WWE merged last April with the company that runs Ultimate Fighting Championship to create the $21.4 billion sports entertainment company TKO Group Holdings, and McMahon serves as that group’s executive chairman of the board.

By PAT EATON-ROBB AP Sports Writer