NPR logo Michael Vick Wins Appeals Court Ruling On $16 Million Bonus

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Michael Vick Wins Appeals Court Ruling On $16 Million Bonus

A federal appeals court said Michael Vick gets to keep his $16 million bonus from the Atlanta Falcons. Michael Perez/AP Photo hide caption

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Michael Perez/AP Photo

A federal appeals court said Michael Vick gets to keep his $16 million bonus from the Atlanta Falcons.

Michael Perez/AP Photo

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick scored another legal victory over the NFL Tuesday when a federal appeals court upheld a lower court decision that Vick was entitled to keep more than $16 million in bonuses he received from the Atlanta Falcons, his former team.

The NFL had argued that Vick had forfeited his roster bonuses after his federal conviction for bankrolling a dogfighting operation.

A roster bonus is paid when a player is on a team's roster as of a certain date. It differs from a signing bonus which is paid at the time a player signs a contract to play with a particular team.

But the eighth circuit federal appeals court sided with U.S. District Judge David Doty who oversees collective bargaining issues involving the NFL. Doty ruled that the bonuses were earned before the dogfighting conviction and thus Vick was owed the money.

Affording the district court a measure of deference as the court that entered the
consent decree and has overseen each of the subsequent amendments, we conclude that it properly rejected the League's argument that Vick's roster bonuses were signing bonus allocations subject to the years-performed test. Accordingly, the district court did not err in determining that the bonuses were earned when Vick met the roster provisions in his contract, and thus not subject to forfeiture.

The appeals court also rejected the NFL's argument that Doty should no longer be allowed to oversee NFL collective bargaining agreements. The NFL charged that the district judge had shown bias but the appeals court disagreed.

The Associated Press has a reaction from an NFL spokesman:

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello did not say whether the league planned a further appeal, but he said the 8th Circuit upheld Doty's ruling on Vick's bonuses in large part because it found the contract's forfeiture language ambiguous.

"That is something that we will seek to change at the bargaining table to ensure that bonus payments are paid to players who comply with their contracts and perform on the field," Aiello said.