Contract Termination: Is Aaron Hernandez legally entitled to guaranteed payments from his contract with the New England Patriots regardless of his actions or can the Patriots legally withhold payments after terminating his contract?

The Alter-Ego of former Patriots star tight end Aaron Hernandez

The Alter-Ego of former Patriots star tight end Aaron Hernandez

Aaron Hernandez charged with murder in the death Odin Lloyd

Aaron Hernandez charged with murder in the death Odin Lloyd

By now all those in the sports world are aware of the alter ego and actions of former Patriots star tight end Aaron Hernandez. Arrested for the alleged murder of 27-year old semi professional football player Odin Lloyd, and also linked to a double homicide in Boston in 2012, Hernandez remains in custody without bail in this ongoing investigation. The Patriots released Hernandez all but two hours after being arrested the morning of June 26, and resulted in the Patriots withholding any future payments of the guaranteed money outlined in Hernandez’s recently signed contract. The issue here, as the NFLPA pursues recovery of these damages from the Patriots supposed breach of his contract, is whether the Patriots are legally able to withhold these payments to Hernandez due to the severity of the incident, or if Hernandez, regardless of his actions, is entitled to the guaranteed and bonus money.

Hernandez signed a contract extension in the summer of 2012 that featured a $12.5 million signing bonus, $16 million guaranteed money, and a total maximum value of $40 million. The NFLPA has now filed several grievances on behalf of Hernandez in attempt to recover money they believe the Patriots owe to Hernandez for guaranteed payments, as well as signing and workout bonus money. However, according to the NFL collective bargaining agreement (CBA), there is a policy allowing teams to retrieve bonus money from players if that particular player is incarcerated. Nevertheless, the NFLPA filed these grievances on the premise of protecting the rights of all NFL players derived from the CBA. Therefore, regardless of the allegations, Aaron Hernandez was still a player with a contract in the NFL, though terminated. Meanwhile, Patriots owner Robert Kraft refuses to fulfill the contractual obligations based off the fact that Hernandez failed to hold up his end of the contract, so he would not honour his side of the agreement. Additionally, due to his incarceration Hernandez may even be forced to forfeit payments, as Article 4, Section 9 of the 2011 CBA states, “a player who is ‘unavailable to the team due to conduct by him that results in his incarceration’ has committed a ‘forfeitable breach’ and may be required to forfeit the signing bonus (or roster bonus, option bonus, reporting bonus) for each year that a breach occurs.”

While this information is significant in terms of both the rights of Aaron Hernandez and the New England Patriots, the fact is that this case is ongoing and Aaron Hernandez is, under U.S. legislation, innocent until proven guilty. Based off the evidence that has been presented, the New England Patriots should be able to withhold future payments to Hernandez, and Hernandez should be entitled to keep his payments from the Patriots, only until a verdict has been made in this case rendering Hernandez innocent or guilty. It would be at this point that Hernandez, if innocent, could recover his payments from the Patriots, but if guilty, must forfeit payments made to him prior to this incident. With the information presented, I now ask what is your position in the ongoing contract debate between Aaron Hernandez and the New England Patriots?

http://espn.go.com/boston/nfl/story/_/id/8306183/new-england-patriots-tight-end-aaron-hernandez-agree-extension-sources-say

http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/nfl-shutdown-corner/nflpa-trying-help-aaron-hernandez-collect-millions-contract-195500026–nfl.html

http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/nfl-shutdown-corner/patriots-release-aaron-hernandez-significant-salary-cap-financial-154044125.html

http://www.rollingstone.com/feature/the-gangster-in-the-huddle

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5 Responses to Contract Termination: Is Aaron Hernandez legally entitled to guaranteed payments from his contract with the New England Patriots regardless of his actions or can the Patriots legally withhold payments after terminating his contract?

  1. tybrewer says:

    There are very interesting arguments for both sides in the case of Aaron Hernandez with regards to signing bonus. A contract was formed between Hernandez and the New England Patriots, and the duties of the contract should be carried out. However, as those of us in contract law have learned, if you come to the court with dirty hands they will do nothing to help you. Hernandez does not yet have dirty hands but pending a guilty verdict he would. My evaluation is that he should receive his money until a guilty verdict is reached and then, only, would the Patriots reclaim the money.

  2. pw10wo says:

    Looking at the argument from both perspectives, it is clear that the NFLPA and the owner’s have a serious issue that needs to be solved accordingly. Considering the policies included in the current CBA regarding players who are incarcerated, I feel the payments should be withheld, however, Hernandez should be fully compensated for the payments he missed while incarcerated if the courts find him innocent. Those responsible for implementing and modifying policies in the league’s collective bargaining agreement must play close attention, especially considering the high number of NFL players who are arrested every year.

  3. eliefortin26 says:

    I am on the side of the NFLPA on this one. Regardless of the reason for his release, they owe him the money that he was entitled to according to the stipulations in the contract. The bonuses that he is entitled to were earned before he was accused of murder so I feel as though he should receive that money. If he is indeed found guilty sentenced to jail time, then I would agree that the Patriots can use the clause in the CBA to get the bonus money back.

  4. mollymchardy says:

    I would have to side with the team on this one. At no fault of the team is he not playing, it was his actions that got him in to this situation. If he is found innocent then he can receive the payments he is due, but until then while he is incarcerated he should not get any money from the team. Withholding his payments until a verdict is reached is a reasonable thing to do.

  5. rbpatriots12 says:

    Great post ! Have to side with the Patriots as Hernandez would have received this money had he not engaged in potential criminal activity. He is only to blame for his current situation as he had been warned several times by Patriot Management that his off-field activities were becoming increasing dangerous and that one more mistake would cause him to be suspended or released. As per the new CBA agreement if the athlete is incarcerated then they can no longer sue for wages that they missed out on while in prison. Unfortunately for Hernandez he can only obtain the money if he is found not-guilty, and that is a big IF.

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