An arbitrator has ruled the Atlanta Falcons can recover nearly $20 million in bonus money paid to quarterback Michael Vick. The NFL players union plans to appeal the decision.
Stephen Burbank, the University of Pennsylvania law professor and special master who led last week's arbitration hearing, sided with the team after hearing from Falcons president and general manager Rich McKay and attorneys from the NFL Players Association, representing Vick.
The Falcons sought to get the money back after Vick's guilty plea to federal charges in a dogfighting operation he fronted. The team argued that the quarterback knew he was in violation of the contract by his involvement in the ring when he signed the $130 million deal in December 2004.
They say he used proceeds from the contract to fund his illicit activities. They've sought the repayment of more than $19 million in bonuses he was paid out of a total of $22.5 million in 2005 and 2006.
The case now 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.
Any money the Falcons recover from the ruling could be used against its future salary cap.