WWE Chairman & CEO Vince McMahon has filed a countersuit to former XFL Commissioner Oliver Luck’s lawsuit that was filed back in April of last year, according to USA Today.
Vince’s countersuit filed on Thursday in Connecticut federal court claims Luck defied his orders when it came to hiring XFL personnel. Vince also alleges that Luck essentially abandoned his duties when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the league to suspend play in mid-March of last year, five weeks into its relaunch season.
McMahon also argued that Luck did not heed his direction when it came to the signing of former NFL wide receiver Antonio Callaway for the Tampa Bay Vipers. Vince says he emphasized to Luck that the XFL player pool must include “quality football players with good character,” and Callaway apparently did not meet Vince’s threshold for that good character as he had issues during his NFL career for violating the substance abuse policy, and for credit card fraud.
Callaway eventually suffered a knee injury before the XFL season started, which led to the league paying him worker’s compensation pay, and leaving the XFL unable to terminate his contract without paying him his original signing bonus that exceeded $120,000.
McMahon indicated in his countersuit that he considered parting ways with Luck before April as he 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 is seeking $572,792.10 from Luck to cover Callaway’s contract, the worker’s compensation pay owed to him, and Luck’s personal compensation from March 14 through April 9.
The countersuit also details other instances of Luck pursuing players with previous blemishes on their records. Former XFL president Jeffrey Pollack and Vipers coach Marc Trestman filed separate declarations confirming McMahon’s account of events.
It was noted that the pursuit of former Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel also caused a rift between McMahon and Luck. After hearing reports that the league would consider signing the troubled star player, Vince sent a text message to Luck that said, “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 admitted it was a ploy for headlines and responded, “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.”
McMahon also accused Luck of leaving the XFL’s Connecticut headquarters on March 13 to return to his home in Indiana. The countersuit notes that after that date, Luck and McMahon had no direct contact. McMahon claims Luck missed several league operations meetings after that date.
“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,” McMahon wrote in the countersuit.
“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,” an attorney for Luck wrote in an email to The Athletic in response to the countersuit.
We noted back in December that Luck seemed to be confident that he will win his wrongful termination lawsuit against former McMahon as he asked a Connecticut federal judge to order McMahon to immediately put aside $23.8 million that would go to pay Luck’s likely award for the lawsuit. Luck filed the lawsuit against Vince back in April, for breach of contract over his April 8 dismissal, which came just four days before the league filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy due to the COVID-19 pandemic following a somewhat successful relaunch. You can click here for details on a May legal filing by Vince’s lawyers, which include allegations against Luck and the reasons Vince fired him, and you can click here for details on Luck’s lawsuit with insider details on the final days of the league under Vince’s control.
The XFL was sold to a private equity group that is led by former WWE Champion The Rock back in the fall. Rock revealed on October 1 that they are looking to bring the league back in 2022.
“It’s an uphill battle – but we’re hungry, humble and no one will outwork us,” Rock said in a statement on October 1.
Stay tuned for more.