WWE majority owner Vince McMahon has filed a countersuit against former XFL commissioner Oliver Luck, as per USA Today Sports.
This comes after Luck had filed a lawsuit against McMahon for wrongful termination in April 2020. Luck claimed to be owed $23.8 million, as his contract was for a $5 million annual salary and yearly $2 million bonus through 2023, as well as other damages and attorney fees.
According to the report, McMahon’s countersuit claims that Luck defied his orders when hiring league personnel, and said that Luck essentially abandoned his duties when the pandemic forced the XFL to suspend play in March last year.
McMahon also argued in the countersuit that Luck did not heed his direction, saying he emphasised to Luck that the XFL player pool must include “quality football players with good character”.
McMahon deemed the signing of Antonio Callaway by the Tampa Bay Vipers as not living up to this request. In November 2019, Callaway had been suspended by the NFL for 10 games for violating the substance abuse policy. In 2017, he’d been suspended for facing third-degree felony charges of credit card fraud.
Callaway actually ended up injuring his knee before the XFL season, meaning he had to be paid worker’s compensation and couldn’t be terminated without paying the original signing bonus, which was over $120,000.
In the suit, McMahon wrote:
“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’s countersuit is seeking $572,792.10 from Luck to cover Callaway’s contract and worker’s compensation, and Luck’s personal compensation from March 14 to April 9.
In response, counsel for Luck wrote the following in an email to the Athletic:
“It’s another lame attempt by Mr. McMahon’s attorneys to deflect attention from the fact that Mr. McMahon continues to refuse to pay the $24 million that he owes Oliver Luck.”
The countersuit also mentions other players, similar to Callaway, that were pursued by Luck who had previous blemishes on their record, namely Martavis Bryant, who had been suspended by the NFL in 2016 for violating the substance abuse policy.
It also named “Player A”, who had been banned from the university where his XFL team was practicing due to a charge of Sexual Assault.
Former XFL president Jeffrey Pollack, and Marc Trestman (Tampa Bay Vipers coach), submitted separate declarations which confirmed McMahon’s version of events.
Another big sticking point for McMahon was Luck’s handling of the pursuit of Johnny Manziel. After learning that the XFL was considering signing Lanziel, McMahon sent the following text to Luck:
“How long R U going to play this game Oliver? U know there is NO CHANCE IN HELL for Manziel to play for us. I will not change my mind. So what’s Ur plan??”
Luck’s response was:
“Vince – we have no intention of signing him, none whatsoever. We’re just milking the story to stay in the news. I’m happy to categorically rule him out but both Jeffrey and I think it is worthwhile to milk it until the showcases are finished (July 12). At that point we can say he doesn’t fit into our plans.”
The countersuit also claims that Luck left the XFL headquarters on March 13 and returned home to Indiana, after which point they had no direct contact and Luck missed several meetings.
“Luck’s actions during the crisis caused by the COVID pandemic certainly did not meet my expectations for a Commissioner and chief executive of a sports league charged with devoting substantially all of his business time to the performance of his duties to the XFL at a time of existential threat.”
The XFL filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in April and was then purchsed for $15 million in August by Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, Dani Garcia and RedBird Capital Partners, and is planned to restart in 2022.
We’ll keep you udpated with any further developments.