CHICAGO (Reuters) - A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday Michael Vick can keep $16.2 million in bonuses that his former team, the Atlanta Falcons, sought to recover when he was imprisoned on a dog fighting conviction.
Vick, now a seldom-used backup quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles, pleaded guilty in August 2007 to bankrolling a dog fighting ring and spent 18 months in jail.
Until Vick’s reinstatement earlier this season, the National Football League suspended him indefinitely without pay and initiated a grievance procedure allowing the Falcons to recover some of the bonus money he was paid.
In 2004, Vick signed a mammoth contract through 2014 that called for bonuses of $22.5 million based on him making the team’s 2005 roster and another $7 million for 2006.
The Falcons initially won the case in an arbitration overseen by a special master and recovered $16.2 million from Vick -- the prorated portion of the bonus that assumed he would be playing through the 2014 season.
Vick appealed, and U.S. District Judge David Doty overruled the special master, saying Vick had earned the roster bonuses.
The appeals court in Minnesota affirmed Doty’s ruling and dismissed arguments by the NFL that the judge was biased and should have recused himself.
Vick filed for bankruptcy last year, having lost an estimated $100 million in salary and endorsements.
Reporting by Andrew Stern; Editing by Peter Rutherford