A former WWE employee filed a lawsuit against founder and current TKO Group Holdings executive chairman Vince McMahon, accusing him of sexual abuse, trafficking and exploitation.
On Thursday, Janel Grant filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut against McMahon, WWE and former head of talent relations John Laurinaitis. The lawsuit alleges violations of the Trafficking Victims Prevention Act along with negligence, civil battery and emotional distress after Grant claimed she was a victim of sexual and emotional abuse for years working for WWE.
McMahon, and WWE have not responded with any statement regarding the lawsuit. In a statement to Variety, a spokesperson for UFC and WWE corporate TKO Holdings said “Mr. McMahon does not control TKO nor does he oversee the day-to-day operations of WWE. While this matter predates our TKO executive team’s tenure at the company, we take Ms. Grant’s horrific allegations very seriously and are addressing this matter internally.”
Grant’s lawsuit alleges McMahon and Laurinaitis engaged in “sexual assault and trafficking,” using her for their own pleasure and as a “pawn” to secure talent deals with prospective wrestlers they were recruiting.
McMahon allegedly showered Grant with gifts and promises of work promotions at WWE while carrying on a “relationship” with her. The lawsuit alleges that McMahon also used intimidation and coercion to make threats to her livelihood and her “reputation” if she wouldn’t succumb to his “increasingly depraved sexual demands.”
One particular incident highlighted in the lawsuit claims that Grant was pulled into a conference room at the WWE offices where she was allegedly sexually assaulted by both McMahon and Laurinaitis. Another incident alleges that McMahon defecated on Grant during a threesome and ordered her to “continue pleasuring his friend” while he left to shower off.
McMahon is also accused of sharing sexually explicit photos and videos of Grant “including pornographic content he recorded” with other employees at WWE, including executives as well as “a world-famous athlete and former UFC heavyweight champion with whom WWE was actively trying to sign to a new contract.”
The lawsuit alleges that after McMahon’s wife found out about the relationship he shared with Grant that she was pressured to resign from the WWE and forced to sign a non-disclosure agreement amid promises that the WWE founder would “support” and protect her.
Grant was allegedly due $3 million related to signing the NDA, but the lawsuit claims McMahon stopped making payments and accused her of leaking information to the press.
“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,” Ann Callis, attorney for Ms. Grant, said in a statement. “She is an incredibly private and courageous person who has suffered deeply at the hands of Mr. McMahon and Mr. Laurinaitis.
“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.”
The lawsuit comes just days after TKO announced a massive 10-year deal worth $5 billion to move the flagship show WWE Raw from USA Network to Netflix starting in 2025. The transformative deal was a significant increase in broadcast rights fees from the previous deal with NBCUniversal.
WWE effectively sold to Endeavor this past April in a deal that eventually put the professional wrestling outfit under a new company umbrella alongside the UFC. The combined company, now called TKO Group Holdings, counts McMahon as the executive chairman.
McMahon has been at the center of a number of controversies in recent years after he retired and then returned to WWE following accusations of sexual misconduct at the company. This past August, he was served with a Federal grand jury subpoena related to the sexual misconduct allegations, though no charges were filed against the executive.
More recently, McMahon sold off approximately $700 million worth of personal stock in TKO — approximately 25 percent of his shares — but he remains in his role as executive chairman.