Vick's Contract Case Before NFL's Special Master Today
University of Pennsylvania law professor Stephen Burbank is scheduled to hear arguments today in the Atlanta Falcons' attempt to force suspended quarterback Michael Vick to return a large portion of the $37 million in bonuses in his 10-year, $130 million contract.
The hearing is to take place at the Penn law school. Burbank is the NFL's special master, putting him in charge of resolving disputes between the league and the players' union arising from the collective bargaining agreement. Burbank's decision can be appealed to U.S. District Judge David Doty, who oversees the sport's labor agreement.
It seems unlikely that Burbank's ruling would come today.
The Falcons maintain that Vick violated his contract and should be forced to return much of the bonus money in his contract, which was signed in December 2004. Estimates of the amount the Falcons are seeking range from $16 million to $22 million.
NFL Players Association officials contend that the Falcons are entitled to, at best, far less money because of the structure of Vick's contract, in which he had a signing bonus of $7.5 million and two roster bonuses totaling $29.5 million. In a previous case involving the Denver Broncos and wide receiver Ashley Lelie, an arbitrator ruled that option bonuses in a player's contract were not subject to forfeiture. The union contends that the roster bonuses in Vick's contract fall into the same category and the only money possibly in question is a prorated portion of his $7.5 million signing bonus.
Vick is on indefinite suspension by the NFL after pleading guilty to a federal conspiracy charge related to his participation in a dogfighting operation based at a property that he owned in southeastern Virginia. He is to be sentenced on Dec. 10 by U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson. Vick faces a recommended jail term of 12 to 18 months, but Hudson can sentence him to up to five years in prison. Vick also has been indicated on state dogfighting charges. A Surry County, Va., judge this week scheduled a Nov. 27 hearing to set a trial date. Vick faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of the two state felonies. His attorneys have said they will closely examine the issue of whether Vick's rights are being violated by being charged twice with the same crime.
By Mark Maske |
October 4, 2007; 11:35 AM ET
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