CBA Special Master Stephen Burbank ruled over the weekend that the forfeiture provisions in the CBA barred enforcement of contract promises by two rookie free agents in 2009 to repay their signing bonuses if they failed to perform.
Both players – Miami Dolphins rookie free agents Jared Bronson of Central Washington and SirVincent Rogers of Houston – quit last summer after signing their rookie contracts. Bronson, a tight end who received an $8,000 signing bonus, did not even report to camp. Rogers, a tackle who received a $7,000 signing bonus, quit after five days, saying he did not want to play football. In this proceeding, as in the past, the union sought to nullify the players’ promises to repay their signing bonuses if they failed to perform.
The CBA provisions on which the union relied are essentially the same as those involved in the Michael Vick and Plaxico Burress cases. Professor Burbank ruled in favor of the NFL in the Vick case, but Judge David Doty overturned the decision. Judge Doty maintains oversight under the terms of the 1993 settlement that resulted in the current CBA system. In this most recent case, the Special Master ruled for the union based on prior interpretations of the CBA, refusing to enforce the players’ contract promises that they freely negotiated.
“The CBA was never intended to allow players who violate their contracts, commit crimes, or quit on their teams to keep bonus money paid to them in good faith by the clubs, whether it’s $7,000 or much more,” said NFL Executive Vice President Jeff Pash. “This is money that should be available to rookies and veterans who actually perform, but the union has continually sought rulings that allow players who breach their contracts to take the money and run. The illogical and unintended consequences of these rulings are one of the many reasons why the current CBA needs to be changed. We are committed to addressing this issue in our negotiations with the NFLPA and reaching a CBA that prevents these kinds of results in the future.”