Why did NFL arbitrator order Cardinals to pay $3 million to ex-Exec Terry McDonough?

Following a disappointing season for the Arizona Cardinals, where they ended with a 4-13 record, fans may have had their doubts about the team’s future. Hence, their once-favourite star quarterback Kyler Murray also found himself in the spotlight after the Cardinals team declared to continue their relationship with Murray in the upcoming season. 

Meanwhile, the Cardinals made headlines once again due to former executive Terry McDonough’s legal claim against them. This led to an order for the team to pay and issue a statement addressing the situation.

Why do the Cardinals need to pay $3M to Terry McDonough?

The Arizona Cardinals have been directed by an NFL arbitrator to pay $3 million to former executive Terry McDonough due to statements made by the team that were deemed as “false and defamatory” to the media. On Monday, Mike Caspino, McDonough’s attorney, filed the arbitrator Jeffrey Mishkin’s decision in federal court.

Mishkin, appointed by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, determined that the Cardinals and team owner Michael Bidwill had defamed McDonough “with malice.” The team’s extensive statement to media outlets made serious accusations against McDonough, including spousal abuse and neglect of his disabled adult daughter. McDonough strongly denies these allegations.

The arbitration stemmed from a situation where McDonough voiced discomfort to Bidwill regarding the team’s use of burner phones to communicate with then-general manager Steve Keim. He later alleged retaliation from Bidwill and the team, leading to the arbitration claim last April.

Meanwhile, the ruling still had significant financial implications. McDonough initially sought $15 million in lost future earnings, $10 million for emotional distress, $10 million for reputational harm, and $60 to $90 million in punitive damages. Interestingly, he was ultimately awarded $2.25 million in punitive damages, $600,000 for emotional distress, and $150,000 for harm to his reputation.

Of particular note is the arbitrator’s determination that the team did utilize burner phones, a finding that could prompt the NFL to take disciplinary action against the organization.

Meanwhile, McDonough faces a separate legal issue involving an allegation of choking his neighbor during an incident last month.

Cardinals official statement after Terry McDonough ruling

Following the ruling in the arbitration case involving former executive Terry McDonough, the Cardinals released a statement expressing their perspective on the matter.

In their statement issued on Monday, the Cardinals team expressed their satisfaction with the arbitrator’s decision, particularly the dismissal of all employment claims against their former executive.

“We are pleased with the arbitrator’s decision dismissing all of Terry McDonough’s employment claims and finding that there was nothing improper about his dismissal from the team. As for Mr. McDonough’s other claim, we respect the arbitrator’s determination that our initial statement went too far. We accept responsibility for that statement and are grateful that the arbitration is now resolved,” the statement read, per ESPN.

The former Cardinals’ vice president had been associated with the Cardinals since 2013, rising to the position of vice president of player personnel. After signing a two-year contract extension in May 2022, he was relieved of his duties in January 2023. It came before his filing of the arbitration complaint by three months.

Shabiha Akter

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Shabiha, once a casual observer, has morphed into a die-hard NFL fan. She carefully dissects every play, trade, and strategy. Whether it's breaking down game highlights or predicting playoff outcomes, Shabiha is your go-to source for all things NFL.


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