NFLPA to appeal arbitrator's ruling that Falcons can reclaim Vick bonuses
ATLANTA -- Michael Vick has taken another hit -- and this one could cost him nearly $20 million.
Already facing prison time, the disgraced quarterback lost the first round in his financial battle with the Atlanta Falcons when an arbitrator ruled Tuesday that Vick should repay much of the bonus money he got while secretly bankrolling a gruesome dogfighting ring.
The case is far from over. The players' union said it will appeal the ruling by Stephen B. Burbank, a University of Pennsylvania law professor and special master who oversaw last week's arbitration hearing in Philadelphia.
The Falcons argued that Vick, who pleaded guilty to federal charges for his role in the long-running operation, knew he was in violation of the contract when he signed a 10-year, $130 million deal in December 2004.
The team said he used proceeds from the contract to fund his illicit activities and sought the repayment of $19,970,000 in bonuses he was paid over the last three years.
Any money the Falcons recover from Vick would be credited to its future salary cap, a huge step in recovering from the loss of the team's franchise player. Atlanta (1-4) is off to a dismal start with Joey Harrington at quarterback.
"We are certainly pleased with today's ruling," the Falcons said in a statement. "It is the first step in a process that our club has undertaken in an attempt to recoup significant salary cap space that will allow us to continue to build our football team today and in future years."
In a highly technical, nine-page ruling, Burbank said the Falcons were entitled to $3.75 million of the $7.5 million bonus that Vick was paid after signing the deal in 2004, $13.5 million of the $22.5 million in roster, reporting and playing bonuses he was paid in 2005 and 2006, and $2.72 million of the $7 million roster, reporting and playing bonus that he received this year.
In that case, the arbitrator ordered the Broncos to repay $220,000 to Lelie, who reportedly had to give up about $1 million in fines, lost bonuses and a prorated portion of his signing bonus to get out of the final year of his Denver contract after a dispute over playing time.
"We have reviewed the decision handed down by Special Master Stephen Burbank and believe it is incorrect," the NFLPA said in a statement. "We will now appeal his ruling."
The case goes to U.S. District Court Judge David Doty in Minneapolis, who still has jurisdiction over the antitrust suit filed by players following the 1987 strike.
Giving teams more financial leeway than he did in the Lelie case, Burbank said Falcons were entitled to recover bonuses for future services that Vick won't be able to earn because of his dogfighting admission. He was suspended indefinitely without pay by the NFL, in addition to losing millions in lucrative endorsement deals.
If upheld, the decision would be a further strain on Vick's finances.
He already has been sued by an Indiana bank that claims he failed to repay at least $2 million in loans for a car rental business, and by a Canadian bank that claims he owes more than $2.3 million for real estate investments.
Of course, Vick has more troubling issues to deal with than cash-flow problems. He'll be sentenced Dec. 10 in the federal dogfighting case and is expected to get at least a year in prison. He's also facing felony dogfighting charges in Virginia, which carry possible sentences of up to five years each.
In addition, Vick tested positive for marijuana last month, drawing the ire of the judge who will be sentencing him in December. U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson ordered Vick confined to his Virginia home between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. with electronic monitoring. He also must submit to random drug testing.
Vick's stunning downfall began in late April when authorities conducting a drug investigation of Vick's cousin raided property that Vick owns in Surry County, Va. Officers seized dozens of dogs, most of them pit bulls, and equipment associated with dogfighting.
Vick initially denied any knowledge of the enterprise, then pledged after he was charged that he would fight to clear his name.
After his three co-defendants pleaded guilty, Vick followed suit in late August and admitted to bankrolling the enterprise and participating in the killing of eight dogs that performed poorly. In his only public comment since the admission, Vick took responsibility for his actions and asked for forgiveness.
"I offer my deepest apologies to everybody out there in the world who was affected by this whole situation," he said, "and if I'm more disappointed with myself than anything it's because of all the young people, young kids that I let down, who look at Michael Vick as a role model."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
VICK SENTENCED TO 23 MONTHS
Michael Vick was sentenced to 23 months in federal prison and three years' probation for his role in a dogfighting conspiracy. The suspended Falcons quarterback is looking at a scheduled release of July 2009. Story
Update• GM: Falcons will attempt to trade Vick
• Lawyer: Vick might move to halfway house
• Former Vick estate fails to sell again
• Vick house fails to sell at auction
• Vick files for bankruptcy protection
• Prosecutor: Vick's Virginia trial can wait
• Vick ordered to repay Canadian bank $2.4 million
• Judge denies NFL motion to reverse Vick ruling
• Report: Vick not playing organized football in jail
• Report: Vick passes time with prison-yard football
• Vick's state dogfighting trial to begin June 27
• Munson: Vick yet to enter drug treatment
The sentence• Vick sent to Kansas to serve rest of sentence
• Vick asked judge for leniency before sentencing
• Vick sentenced to 23 months | Document (pdf)
• Poll: What do you think? | What they're saying
• Clayton: Sentence puts career in jeopardy
• Munson: Tough sentence by displeased judge
• Teammates show support at Falcons game
• Can Vick return to playing in NFL?
• Pasquarelli: No longer top of mind in Atlanta
• Last Vick co-defendant sentenced
• Podcasts : Cossack | Schlereth | Munson/Naqi | Pasquarelli
• Chat wrap: David Cornwell
Post Plea• NFL wants court to reverse Vick bonus ruling
• Victory for Vick: QB can keep $20 million bonus
• Fifth defendant in Vick case receives probation
• Vick's house for sale for $1.1M
• Some Falcons to visit Vick in prison
• PETA unveils new e-card
• Former Virginia estate fails to sell at auction
• Out of Falcons' sight, almost out of mind
• Judge's casework offers look at possible sentence
• Remaining dogs placed with rescue groups
• Source: Feds may push judge to up sentence
• NFLPA argues Vick should not lose roster bonus
• Vick co-defendants get 18, 21 months in prison
• Vick agrees to put up almost $1M for dogs' care
• Vick given April trial date on state charges
• Vick surrenders to begin serving sentence early
• Home at center of Vick dogfighting scandal sold
• Vick fires one of his lawyers in dogfighting case
• Man who sold Vick pit bull pleads guilty
• Man connected to Vick dogfight ring pleads guilty
• Third bank sues Vick, claims he defaulted on loan
• Arbiter: Falcons have right to reclaim bonuses
• PETA: Vick had class on animal cruelty
• Evaluations show 48 of Vick's dogs placeable
• Vick tests positive for marijuana
• Vick supporters turn out for town meeting
• Vick's apology notes fetch $10.2K at auction
Vick's Plea/NFL Suspension• Vick pleads guilty to federal dogfighting charge
• The plea (PDF) | Statement of facts (PDF)
• Vick's statement: Watch it | Read it
• Roger Cossack explains plea deal
• Poll: Vick should be banned
• Va. Tech, Beamer continue to support Vick
• Vick supporters drown out protesters
• NFL suspends Vick indefinitely | Goodell (PDF)
• Chris Mortensen on Vick's suspension
• Vick files plea agreement admitting to dogfighting
Indictment• Marbury's about-face: Vick 'is 100 percent wrong'
• National NAACP: Vick 'not a victim' | Audio
• Atlanta NAACP: Vick should be allowed to return
• Falcons come to terms with 'ex-teammate'
• Vick timeline | What they're saying
• Helyar: Even Atlanta turns against Vick
• Goodell: Vick not overshadowing season
• Vick co-defendant pleads guilty to charges
• Tony Taylor: Summary of Facts | Plea agreement
• Hometown residents stand by Vick
• Falcons had planned to suspend Vick
• Commish tells Vick to avoid camp
• Vick indicted | The indictment (pdf) | Civil arrest warrant (pdf)
Town Hall meeting• Town Hall chat wrap: Chadiha
Previous columns/analysis• Munson: Q&A on Vick reporting to prison early
• Munson: Looking at Judge Hudson
• Vick's high school learning lessons
• Bryant: Confounded by race issue
• Munson: Q&A about local indictment
• Munson: Next focus for Vick is length of sentence
• Schlabach: Vick an afterthought on VT campus
• Chadiha: Vick not running from truth
• Hill: Coverage means bigger issues ignored
• Wojciechowski: Pay attention to the fallen star
• Bryant: Vick's plea deal comes with baggage
• Bryant: In failing Vick, NFLPA fails itself
• Munson: Vick plea means surrender
• Forde: Vick's epic fall
• Pasquarelli: Major blow for Falcons
• Chadiha: Lots of lessons to be learned
• Wojciechowski: Punishment with teeth
• Easterbrook: Little sympathy?
• Clayton: Vick's NFL future might be bleak
• E-Ticket: A history of mistrust
• Chadiha: Vick's bad choices