Burress Grievance Limits Signing Bonus Forfeitures

Though we’ve yet to eyeball the written decision, we’ve picked up some key details regarding the Plaxico Burress grievance.
The Giants argued that the four-game suspension and placement of Burress on the non-football injury/illness list arising from Plaxico’s unfortunate placement of an entry wound and exit wound into his thigh constitued a second default under the bonus-forfeiture provisions of the 2006 Collective Bargaining Agreement, which entitled the Giants to recover 75 percent of his signing-bonus proration for 2008.
Because Burress received a signing bonus of $4.25 million (not $4.5 million, as reported elsewhere last week) on a five-year deal, his full proration for 2008 was $850,000.  Thus, 75 percent of that amount was $637,500.  (We’ll address the balance of the $1 million the team withheld from Burress in a separate post.)
Special Master Richard Burbank found that Burress is permitted to retain the $637,500 because Article XIV, Section 9 of the CBA applies only where the player holds out or retires.
In other words, Burbank concluded that a suspension resulting from intentional misconduct (such as tucking a loaded and unlicensed gun into the waistband of a player’s sweatpants and taking a trip to Manhattan) does not amount to the kind of willful action encompassed by Article XIV, Section 9(a).
Previously, it widely was believed that the operative language — “if a player willfully takes action that has the effect of substantially undermining his ability to fully participate and contribute in either preseason training camp or the regular season” — applied not only to the intentional avoidance of such activities but also to intentional action that causes the player to miss training camp or the regular season.
In other words, getting suspended for conduct detrimental to the team or for violating league policies doesn’t trigger a signing bonus forfeiture.  Likewise, any injury suffered by a player engaged intentionally in unsafe off-field activities won’t trigger a forfeiture, either.
The ruling is subject to appeal by U.S. district judge David Doty, and then subject to review by the federal Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.  So it’s not final.  But, for now, the Giants and the league are on the losing end of a decision that, if it stands, will give the players even more leverage at the bargaining table when the next CBA is being negotiated.  

6 responses to “Burress Grievance Limits Signing Bonus Forfeitures

  1. Only in NY could someone legally withhold $362,500 and expect to get away with it! Wow! Ok Plax was not a good egg, but, really, how does an employer expect to gain sympathy from the working class, their biggest base of fans, for NOT paying a worker what is legitimately OWED to him!
    I understand about the $637,000, just not the balance.
    Wake up you working class G-fans….your team is just like every other team that wants to stick it to you and their players at the same time. Now some guy (Ralph Vacciano) wants to call the guy “a waste” even though he CAUGHT A SUPER BOWL WINNING TD with only SECONDS REMAINING!
    Any you have the nerve to complain about Philly fans and Philly media….Give me a break

  2. That is an awfully narrow reading of that section. It was clearly written to cover a wide range of possibilities and not just two specific instances. If the section were intended to cover only holdout or retirement, it could easily have said so. The fact that there is not a list, means it is not intended to be limiting (florio, what is that latin legal term for a list that is intended to cover all possibilities?).

  3. “Only in NY could someone legally withhold $362,500 and expect to get away with it! Wow! Ok Plax was not a good egg, but, really, how does an employer expect to gain sympathy from the working class, their biggest base of fans, for NOT paying a worker what is legitimately OWED to him!”
    Seriously? So if any worker willfully chose to stay home, wasn’t sick, wasn’t taking a vacation but stayed home and didnt tell his work, should his work still pay him?
    Quite frankly how anyone could read the language as written to have it mean only retirement or hold out is beyond me. Especially as it talks about FULLY PARTICIPATING. The addition of the word “fully” must mean there are situations which you can half way participate, like say only being able to go through walkthru’s or attend meetings. I hope the Giants appeal the descision, this is just stupid.

  4. Thanks Eagles fan for making us all dumber with this gem of a comment: “Only in NY could someone legally withhold $362,500 and expect to get away with it!”
    Usually something that’s LEGAL is upheld and there’s nothing to get away with. Dumb dumbs.
    The guy shot himself and couldn’t play. Would you pay an employee of yours if that happened?
    The same guy who caught the SuperBowl TD is the one who gave up on catching Pacman Jones three years ago.

  5. You NY’ers aren’t getting what I am saying. If you work and your employer withholds money for pay you’ve earned, it is an illegal act. Whether right or wrong, he earned a signing bonus by signing his name on the dotted line. That would give him a pro-rated signing bonus for 2008 of $637,500. The part I find offensive is that they withheld an additional amount of his pay of almost 50% of money he earned (by signing his name, which was the agreement that the Giants management was to give him).
    In an ideal world, Burress would have the same pay structure that 90% of the rest of the world does, i.e. go to work, put in time, earn money given to you in a check a week, two weeks, or a month later. But that is not the way the NFL operates. They pay a bonus to sign your name.
    Now they want to reverse that. Listen, Burress deserves the book to be thrown at him for his crime and for stupidity. I would hope that holding people accountable for their actions would start to make an impact on personal conduct. But, here’s the thing, if you want to hold other’s accountable for what they do, than you have to be willing to be held accountable for what you are doing.
    Withholding pay for signing your name, which is what the Giants were willing to do when everybody signed on the dotted line, is not living up to the terms of the agreement. If you want to put in forfeiture clauses that are within the confines of the CBA, then do it. Otherwise, don’t negotiate something with someone and agree in writing to give them compensation for signing their name.

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