Federal judge rules Vick can keep more than $16 million in bonus money
MINNEAPOLIS -- Jailed quarterback Michael Vick can keep all but $3.75 million of the nearly $20 million in bonus money he received from the Atlanta Falcons following a ruling Monday by a federal judge.
Inside The Vick Ruling• Barring a successful appeal, Michael Vick can keep all but $3.75 million of the nearly $20 million in bonus money he received from the Atlanta Falcons. • Under the NFL players' contract, as interpreted by U.S. District Judge David Doty, teams can't recover roster bonus money, because a player earns it when they make the roster. However, they can recover signing bonus money because that's governed by separate rules. • The case was argued in Minneapolis because Doty has handled cases involving the NFL's collective bargaining agreement for nearly 20 years.
The Falcons sought to recover the bonuses after Vick pleaded guilty to federal charges in a dogfighting operation. The bonuses were paid from 2004-07.
A special master ruled in October the Falcons were entitled to recover the bonuses. The Falcons argued Vick used proceeds from a contract he signed in 2004 to finance his illicit activities.The NFL Players Association had asked a federal judge to overturn the special master's decision that Vick should forfeit the bonus money because of his guilty plea.
But U.S. District Judge David Doty of Minneapolis ruled that recovery of most of the bonus money by the Falcons would violate the NFL collective bargaining agreement. The agreement does not allow roster bonus money to be forfeited once it's been earned, the judge wrote.Doty, who has handled cases involving the collective bargaining agreement for nearly 20 years, compared interpreting the relevant section of the contract to "alchemy" late last year.
The NFL criticized Doty's ruling. The league has suspended Vick indefinitely without pay.
"It makes no sense that an individual who willfully violates his contract is entitled to be paid tens of millions of dollars even though he is in jail and providing no services whatsoever to his employer," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in a statement.
Vick's personal attorney, Lawrence Woodward Jr., said Vick was happy with the ruling but understands there could be appeals.
"He's grateful for some good news, but he realizes he needs to keep doing all the right things to get back to playing football," Woodward said.
At a November hearing, union attorney Jeffrey Kessler contended Vick's "roster bonus" should be treated the same as a "performance bonus," which can't be forfeited under the agreement. The league maintained the roster bonus should be treated like a "signing bonus allocation," which could be forfeited.
Doty ruled that once Vick made the Falcons' 80-man roster, he earned the bonus money and the team cannot demand forfeiture. However, he wrote, the Falcons can recover $3.75 million of his 2006 signing bonus, which is governed by other rules and is something the union did not challenge.
Kessler welcomed the decision.
"The Players Association is obviously delighted with the result," Kessler said. "It vindicates our view that a clear deal was made, that once players earn their compensation, that it is no longer subject to being taken back."
While the distinction about whether Vick's roster bonuses were guaranteed or not guaranteed may be important for salary cap purposes, Doty wrote, "it does not dictate the outcome in a forfeiture context."
Any money recovered would be credited to Atlanta's future salary cap.
Doty also ruled that the Falcons may not use state law, even in a grievance procedure, to try to recoup Vick's bonus money.
Atlanta Falcons president Rich McKay issued a statement saying the team is disappointed with the ruling, but that it won't affect the Falcons' salary cap for the 2008 season.
"Any potential recovery would have only affected our 2009 salary cap," McKay said. "As to our future legal strategies, we will meet with our legal representatives to more fully understand our options before making that determination."
Vick received a 23-month jail sentence. He entered a minimum-security prison in Leavenworth, Kan., last month.The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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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