NEW YORK (Reuters) - An arbitrator has ruled that former New York Giants receiver Plaxico Burress can keep bonus money he earned prior to accidentally shooting himself in a New York nightclub last year.
The decision means the Giants, who released Burress last week, must pay him the $1 million that his been withheld from his $4.25 million signing bonus since the shooting, The New York Times reported on its website ( www.nytimes.com ).
Burress was arrested in December and charged with criminal possession of a weapon after his gun accidentally discharged while tucked into his trousers, with the bullet wounding his leg.
NFL Players Association (NFLPA) executive director DeMaurice Smith on Monday applauded the ruling, which also applies to the Kansas Chiefs running back Larry Johnson.
“It means that clubs can’t impose additional discipline by claiming back signing or roster bonus monies after a suspension, either by a club or the league,” Smith said in a statement.
The Giants and the NFL disagreed.
“We are very disappointed with the decision,” Giants president John Mara said in a statement.
“To think that a player could carry a loaded gun into a nightclub, shoot himself and miss the rest of the season but get to keep his entire signing bonus illustrates one of the serious flaws in the current system.”
In a statement, the NFL said: “(The ruling) continues an unfortunate trend of permitting players who are suspended due to serious misconduct to nonetheless retain large bonus payments from their NFL teams.”
Johnson, who was suspended by the NFL for one game last year for violating its personal conduct policy, is entitled to keep one-fourth of the 2008 portion of his signing bonus or about $521,000, The Kansas City Star reported on its website (www.kansascity.com).
He also would be paid his full salary of $4.55 million if he plays for the Chiefs this year.
The arbitrator, however, ruled that although Johnson’s contract called for him to be paid $3.75 million in 2009 and 2010 -- whether he played for the Chiefs or not -- the money was no longer guaranteed.
Johnson forfeited the guaranteed payments when he was suspended, the arbitrator ruled.
Reporting by Gene Cherry in North Carolina; Editing by Martin Petty
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