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XFL Fights Fired CEO’s $24 Million Claim, Cites Callaway Signing

May 14, 2020, 2:49 PM

XFL Chairman Vince McMahon asked the District of Connecticut to reject a motion by fired XFL Commissioner Oliver Luck for a $23.8 million prejudgment remedy for wrongful termination, saying Luck violated the league’s personnel policy by hiring Antonio Callaway despite his suspension from the NFL for substance abuse.

Luck also “abandoned” his XFL duties when the coronavirus hit and didn’t devote “substantially all of his business time” to them, McMahon told the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut Wednesday.

Luck ignored McMahon’s directive not to hire players with questionable or problematic backgrounds, the filing says.

After McMahon learned of Callaway’s background and directed Luck to fire Callaway, Luck failed to do so, according to the filing.

As a result, Callaway was allowed to continue to practice and sustained a knee injury that caused the XFL to incur substantial costs that would have been avoided if Luck had followed the applicable policies and directives, McMahon said.

Because Luck was fired for cause, McMahon said, Luck will be unable to prove his case and the motion for prejudgment remedy must therefore be denied.

Luck entered into a five-year employment contract with the league on May 30, 2018.

Luck alleges he was wrongfully terminated on April 9, 2020, based on “pretextual and meritless allegations regarding Mr. Luck’s performance as Commissioner and CEO of the XFL.”

In his motion for prejudgment remedy, Luck argued that the XFL had no policy in place at the time that would have disqualified Callaway when he signed to play in the XFL.

McMahon was told in advance of the signing of Callaway and didn’t object, Luck said.

“In fact, McMahon had instructed Mr. Luck to upgrade the quality of receivers in the XFL, and the signing of Callaway accomplished that goal,” Luck argued.

And when McMahon told Luck in January 2020 that he wanted Callaway terminated, Mr. Luck promptly followed McMahon’s directive, Luck said.

Luck also disputes the allegation that he abandoned his duties when the coronavirus hit.

“While the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting XFL and government orders prohibited Mr. Luck from returning to the XFL offices after March 15, 2020, Mr. Luck continued to fulfill his obligations and responsibilities to the XFL,” he said.

Shipman & Goodwin, and Dobrowski Larkin & Stafford LLP represent Luck.

K&L Gates, LLP and Day Pitney LLP represent McMahon.

For additional legal resources, visit Bloomberg Law In Focus: Coronavirus (Bloomberg Law Subscription).

The case is Luck v. McMahon, D. Conn., No. 20-cv-00516, 5/13/20.

To contact the reporter on this story: Peter Hayes in Washington at PHayes@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Patrick L. Gregory at pgregory@bloomberglaw.com

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