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Vince McMahon accused of sex trafficking of former WWE employee in lawsuit

Note: This story contains graphic descriptions of sexual abuse that may be offensive to some readers or painful to survivors of sexual assault.

A woman who worked for WWE and received a payout from the company has filed a lawsuit against WWE and Vince McMahon on Thursday that alleges the wrestling company’s founder took part in sex trafficking and put her through sexual acts that were done with ‘extreme cruelty and degradation.’ WWE’s former head of talent relations John Laurinaitis is also named in the suit.

The news was first reported in The Wall Street Journal.

The lawsuit, filed in the state of Connecticut and obtained by USA TODAY Sports, details the experience of Janel Grant, a former employee at WWE’s headquarters. Grant said McMahon made her sign a non-disclosure agreement about their relationship for an agreed amount of $3 million. However, Grant didn’t receive full payment from McMahon, and wants to void the agreement with the lawsuit.

The lawsuit comes out nearly two years after reports McMahon paid upwards of $12 million to four women in a 16-year span to quiet allegations of sexual misconduct and infidelity. The Wall Street Journal had also reported WWE was investigating a secret $3 million settlement to pay to an employee with whom he allegedly had an affair, after which McMahon retired as CEO and chairman of WWE. McMahon was subpoenaed by federal agents in August regarding the payments.

Vince McMahon told employee he ‘owns’ and ‘controls’ her

Grant was hired by WWE in 2019 after McMahon pushed for ‘a physical relationship in return for long-promised employment at WWE,’ according to the court documents. During her employment, Grant said she was forced into the sexual relationship, and McMahon would share explicit photos, videos and details of her to other WWE employees, as well as coerce her into having sexual relations with other WWE staffers, including Laurinaitis.

Examples of the sexual encounters are listed in the suit, including an instance of when McMahon and Laurinaitis sexually assaulted Grant at Laurinaitis’ office at WWE headquarters in Connecticut ‘while colleagues were busy at their desks.’ Grant had begged the two to stop, but they continued to assault her. The suit alleges McMahon also used sex toys named after WWE wrestlers on Grant and defecated on her during one encounter.

‘McMahon also subjected Grant to acts of extreme cruelty and degradation that caused Grant to disassociate and/or become numb to reality in order to survive the horrific encounters,’ the lawsuit states.

In May 2020, the lawsuit states McMahon began to recruit other men and force Grant into sex trafficking. Text messages allegedly from McMahon show he told Grant he’d ‘find more friends’ to take part in sexual encounters, and in another message, told Grant ‘i’m the only one who owns U and controls who I want to (expletive) U.’

McMahon also allegedly used Grant as an incentive for a WWE star to re-sign with the company, which included Grant sending photos and videos to the unnamed star. The star had wanted to meet with Grant and wanted to ‘set a play date,’ but a snowstorm changed the star’s plans.

Vince McMahon breached NDA, lawsuit states

In January 2022, the suit states McMahon told Grant his wife, Linda McMahon, found out about the relationship and he ‘wanted to ensure that Grant would remain silent about his personal misconduct in order to preserve his controlling interest in WWE.’ He advised Grant sign an NDA and would pay for her for it.

While the discussions of the NDA continued throughout the month, the suit alleges McMahon continued the abuse. The payment for the NDA was settled at $3 million, and once it was signed, Grant received a $1 million payment and she left the company in February 2022. A few days later, McMahon and Grant met and he ‘commanded’ her to do ‘one last thing’ by forcibly making her perform oral sex.

In March 2022, the same WWE star that had been in contact with Grant previously had reached out to her, and she sent explicit photos to the star ‘in line with McMahon’s orders.’ The two didn’t ever meet in person.

The lawsuit asks for a ruling that the NDA is invalid under state and federal law and McMahon breached the agreement by only paying $1 million of the agreed $3 million. The suit states Grant will prove in a trail she will need ‘lifelong treatment’ because of the ‘pain and suffering’ caused by McMahon.

McMahon currently serves as executive chairman of TKO Group Holdings, the company that owns WWE along with UFC. On Tuesday, when Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson was appointed as a board member for the company, McMahon was present with other TKO executives and Johnson as he rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange.

TKO Group Holdings, McMahon respond to lawsuit

‘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, an attorney for Grant, said in a statement to USA TODAY Sports. ‘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.’

A spokesperson for McMahon released the following statement:

‘This lawsuit is replete with lies, obscene made-up instances that never occurred, and a vindictive distortion of the truth. He will vigorously defend himself,’ the spokesperson said.

TKO Group Holdings said in a statement to USA TODAY Sports it will address the allegations internally.

“Mr. McMahon does not control TKO nor does he oversee the day-to-day operations of WWE. 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 statement said.

This post appeared first on USA TODAY

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