A former WWE employee accused the sports entertainment company founder and CEO Vince McMahon of abuse and sexual exploitation in a lawsuit filed Thursday.
Plaintiff Janel Grant claims she “was the victim of physical and emotional abuse, sexual assault and trafficking at WWE.” The paperwork says Grant “is filing this lawsuit not just to address her own suffering, but also to act for those who are afraid to speak out.”
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut, outlines that the WWE founder and executive chairman lived in a penthouse duplex in the same apartment building as Grant. They met in March 2019 after Grant had struggled with the grief of losing her parents after extensive caretaking. She was searching for a job.
After an introduction from their building manager, McMahon enthusiastically offered to help Grant, but as he “dangled career-making and life-changing promises in front of Grant, he demonstrated an increasing lack of boundaries.” He asked the woman to keep their “closeness” a secret to keep the public out of it, and he said he protected loyal people, but also that “he had world-class legal resources on speed dial to deal with people who became a problem.”
According to the lawsuit, Grant felt pressured into a physical relationship to work at WWE, where she was hired in the entry-level position of “administrator-coordinator.” She then was directed by McMahon to work for Defendant John Laurinaitis.
The lawsuit alleges that McMahon, Laurinaitis and WWE violated the Trafficking Victims Prevention Act. It also includes claims of civil battery and intentional emotional abuse. Grant seeks unspecified monetary damages and the voiding of a nondisclosure agreement she signed while she worked at WWE.
The document also recounts threesomes that Grant allegedly experienced, as well as an incident in June 2021 when “McMahon and Defendant Laurinaitis sexually assaulted Ms. Grant inside Laurinaitis’ office in WWE headquarters while colleagues were busy at their desks.”
“Mr. McMahon does not control TKO nor does he oversee the day-to-day operations of WWE,” A TKO Group spokesperson told TheWrap. “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.”
The lawsuit comes after the WWE struck a $5 billion deal earlier this week with Netflix for livestream rights to “Monday Night Raw” for 10 years.
The streamer will also become home to all WWE shows and specials outside the U.S., including “Raw,” “Smackdown” and “NXT” as well as the sports entertainment company’s premium live events like “Royal Rumble,” “Wrestlemania” and “SummerSlam.”
WWE documentaries and original series as well as other upcoming projects will also go to Netflix internationally. Shares of TKO Group rose 22% Tuesday after news of the deal reached the public.
TKO Group Holdings resulted from the merger between WWE and Endeavor’s UFC mixed martial arts league in September 2023.
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