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MCMAHON VS. LUCK LAWSUIT UPDATE

By Mike Johnson on 2022-03-17 11:05:00

Court records indicate that representatives for Vince McMahon and former XFL Commissioner Oliver Luck met for over five hours yesterday in trying to settle the lawsuit Luck has brought against McMahon, but there is no sign anything was resolved.

Luck sued McMahon over his departure, which took place just as the league filed for bankruptcy in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and before it was purchased by a group of investors led by The Rock and Dany Garcia, who aim to relaunch the league by 2023.  Luck’s contract called for a $5 million annual salary and a yearly $2 million bonus through June 30, 2023.  Luck alleges he is owed the $23.8 million remaining on his contract, as well as other damages and his attorney fees.

McMahon filed a counter suit against former XFL Commissioner Oliver Luck in January 2021, alleging Luck all but abandoned his duties as the pandemic took hold and that even before that point, Luck ignored McMahon's direction "when it came to the signing of former NFL wide receiver Antonio Callaway by the XFL's Tampa Bay Vipers."

McMahon said he emphasized to Luck that the XFL player pool must include “quality football players with good character.”   Callaway had been suspended by the National Football League in 2017 for facing third-degree felony charges of credit card fraud, according to the USA Today report and was later suspended ten games by The Cleveland Browns for violating substance abuse policy.  Callaway was injured and never played, which led to the XFL "paying him worker’s compensation and leaving the XFL unable to terminate him without paying the original signing bonus that exceeded $120,000."

“Luck knowingly and deliberately deceived me – repeatedly – throughout the Callaway situation, which made me question whether I could continue to trust Luck to be the commissioner and CEO of the XFL,” McMahon stated in his counter-lawsuit, which seeks $572,792.10 from Luck to cover Callaway’s contract, worker’s compensation and Luck’s personal compensation from 3/14/20-4/9/20.

McMahon's counter-suit alleges that Luck left the XFL's Connecticut HQ for his home in Indiana on 3/13/20 and “disengage[d] from the XFL’s operations."  McMahon further claimed Luck did not inform him of his intentions.  "Put simply, at the very moment when his leadership as CEO was needed most, Luck did not devote substantially all of his business time to the XFL, as required by his contract.”

McMahon's counter-suit also alleged that Luck used his league-issued iPhone for personal matters.

Luck responded in a Connecticut Federal District Court filing on 2/26/21, depicting McMahon as "corrupt and deceitful."  That filing alleged that Vince McMahon "violated his duty of good faith . . . to ensure that Alpha did not manufacture spurious or dishonest grounds on which to terminate Mr. Luck for the sinister purpose of avoiding payment of all compensation to which he was entitled upon a termination without cause."

In that filing, Luck stated that his XFL Employment contract contained specific reasons that had to have been triggered by him, willfully or with gross negligenc.  If they were not repaired within 30 days, then Luck's termination could be triggered.   Luck noted that he did not receive any written notice from McMahon or Alpha Entertainment of any alleged wrongdoing and was never given any opportunity to cure any violations.  Luck's filing stated this "absence of notice" was part McMahon’s “bad faith” and a “sham attempt” by Alpha Entertainment to set Luck up for a dishonest firing.   L

Luck's filing also stated, "The Defendants knew that if [Luck] had received such notice and opportunity, he immediately would have cured the alleged violation and thereby deprive the defendants of an opportunity to avoid payment of the full amount."   Luck's filing also alleged that McMahon and Alpha were purposefully misconstruing the facts in regards to him failing to release Antonio Calloway.   Luck noted that his employment contract made it clear that whoever XFL signed or released was for the League commissioner to decide. 

In March 2021, McMahon filed a response, claiming that Luck "deceived" him by omitting reference to Antonio Callaway about free wide receivers that were available to sign, and also not telling him about Callaway's past history.  McMahon's brief also cited examples of McMahon specifically naming Johnny Manziel and Martavis Bryant as players with past troubled histories that should not be signed. 

The brief also attempted to persuade Judge Bolden to deny Luck's attorneys access to 250 pages of "privileged documents" which include emails among a group of former XFL officials. At the time, Luck's attorneys suspected that the documents would bolster their argument that McMahon and XFL officials were on board with the signing of Callaway.   Alpha Entertainment claimed at the time that the documents were not accessible due to attorney-client privilege. 

As noted, the two sides have battled in court over the last several years, with much of the matter remaining sealed by the courts.

In 2018, McMahon launched a new company, Alpha Entertainment, to pursue a number of potential entertainment endeavors as well as a potential relaunch of the XFL.   The original XFL launched in 2001 as a joint venture between NBC and WWE, existing for one season before shutting down.  This version of the XFL was birthed coming out of an ESPN 30For30 documentary about the rise and fall of the 2001 failed version of the league, This Was The XFL.

That documentary included footage of McMahon and NBC Executive Dick Ebersol discussing their memories of their partnership in the league over dinner and the idea of launching it today.  During those discussions, McMahon admitted that he had had talks with Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones about the idea of a "minor league NFL."   The Director of that documentary was Charlie Ebersol, Dick's son, who later approached McMahon with the idea of purchasing the XFL rights and resurrecting the league. 

Instead, McMahon did it himself while Ebersol went on to form the Alliance of American Football (AAF), which launched after the 2019 Super Bowl, folding within months.   The AAF launched in February 2019, one year before the XFL's planned 2020 kickoff.    Despite having a broadcast agreement with CBS, the AAF League almost immediately ran into cash flow difficulties, requiring a new $250 million investment, which made Tom Dundon the new majority owner.  Dundon later made the decision to shut down the league, leaving the XFL's goal of becoming a new alternative football league unencumbered while also spotlighting the dangers of such a business launch. 

As it turned out, XFL 2.0 shut down just weeks into its first relaunched season due to COVID-19.  Initially, the XFL promised to return to the field in 2021, TV deals with ABC/ESPN and FOX in hand, but instead went into a quick bankruptcy.

Under its new management team led by Dany Garcia and Dwayne Johnson, the XFL has promised to kick off again in 2023.  Just last week, The XFL announced it would collaborate with the NFL on "select innovation programs to further expand the game of football and create increased opportunities for player development both on and off the field."

A trial date has already been set for this July.  

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