An attorney for the plaintiff claims that McMahon promised her a job in exchange for sexual favors, after which he effectively “pimped” her out to wrestlers and other WWE officials.
A former World Wrestling Entertainment employee has filed a lawsuit claiming that the company and several of its top officials have engaged in human trafficking and sex abuse.
According to NBC News, the lawsuit was filed earlier this week on behalf of former WWE employee Janel Grant. It names defendants including World Wrestling Entertainment, WWE founder Vince McMahon, and former WWE talent relations manager John Laurinaitis.
In her complaint, Grant said that she was “the victim of physical and emotional abuse, sexual assault and trafficking,” all perpetrated by or in connection to the organization.
“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,” said attorney Ann Callis, who is representing Grant. “She is an incredibly private and courageous person who has suffered deeply at the hands of Mr. McMahon and Mr. Laurinaitis.”
Callis told NBC News that she hopes the lawsuit will prevent other women from being victimized.
However, a spokesperson for McMahon has since said that the complaint is “replete with lies, obscene made-up instances that never occurred,” and is “a vindictive distortion of the truth.”
“He will vigorously defend himself,” the spokesperson said of McMahon.
TKO Group Holdings, the parent company of World Wrestling Entertainment, stressed that any alleged misconduct committed by McMahon is not representative of official company policy or practices.
“Mr. McMahon does not control TKO nor does he oversee day-to-day operations of WWE,” a TKO spokesperson said. “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.”
Grant, notes NBC News, claims to have McMahon in March of 2019, when McMahon was serving as the company’s chief executive. He purportedly “dangled career-making and life-changing promises,” while engaging in a pattern of increasingly inappropriate conduct.
McMahon, for instance, allegedly coerced Grant into a physical relationship, saying that he would employ her at WWE if she complied.
“Ms. Grant feared she had everything to lose and faced negative consequences no matter what happened,” the complaint says, adding that Grant did eventually have a relationship with McMahon, who then hired her into the position he had allegedly promised.
“Despite Ms. Grant’s expressions of unhappiness and attempts to end the sexual relationship—and while she cam to understand that McMahon expected the physical relationship to continue as part of her employment—she had no idea how sordid it would become, nor how the psychological torture and physical violence would leave her feeling helpless, isolated and trapped,” the lawsuit claims.
Attorneys for Grant say that McMahon started sexually explicit photographs of Grant with other men at WWE, some of whom she was pressured into having physical relations with.
“Coercion was inherent in his increasingly depraved sexual demands,” the lawsuit alleges, recalling another incident in which McMahon and other WWE officials reportedly assaulted Grant inside an occupied office.
“Behind a locked door, the two men cornered her and pulled her in between them, forcibly touched her, before ultimately putting her on top of a table in between them,” the lawsuit alleges. “She begged them to stop, but they forced themselves on her, each taking turns restraining her for the other, while saying ‘No means yes’ and ‘Take it, bitch.’”
Grant said that she lost her position after McMahon’s wife found out about their relationship in January 2022. McMahon then put her under “immense pressure” to sign a nondisclosure agreement, the terms of which prevented Grant from speaking publicly about their relationship.
Although Grant accepted the agreement—in exchange for financial compensation—McMahon allegedly reneged and stopped making payments.
“Ms. Grant was groomed and coerced by McMahon and Laurinaitis, and the WWE stood by and facilitated efforts to keep Ms. Grant employed by WWE to ensure McMahon’s continued sexual exploitation,” the lawsuit says.