Former Arizona Cardinals VP Terry McDonough awarded $3 million for defamation

The Arizona Cardinals have been ordered to pay former vice president Terry McDonough $3 million by an NFL arbitrator for "false and defamatory" statements made by the team to the media.

Arbitrator Jeffrey Mishkin ruled that the Cardinals and team owner Michael Bidwell defamed McDonough "with actual malice" with accusations of spousal abuse and neglecting care for his disabled adult daughter, according to ESPN's Tisha Thompson.

"Despite what we consider to be a fundamentally unfair arbitration process, Terry McDonough is the first person ever to win against an NFL owner," said McDonough's attorney, Mike Caspino, in a statement. "Why the NFL has not held Michael Bidwill accountable remains a mystery."

McDonough began a 10-year tenure with the Cardinals in 2013 and was eventually named vice president of player personnel. He was dismissed in January 2023, months after signing a two-year contract extension with the team.

The former executive originally sought $15 million in future earnings from the Cardinals, in addition to $10 million for emotional distress, $10 million for reputational harm and $60 million to $90 million in punitive damages, according to the arbitration ruling. Mishkin awarded McDonough $2.25 million in punitive damages, $600,000 for emotional distress and $150,000 for harm to his reputation.

However, McDonough must pay $45,000 to the Cardinals. Per Pro Football Talk, that sum includes $25,000 for attorney's fees and $20,000 for breaching the confidentiality order regarding the case.

"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," the Cardinals said in a statement.

"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 NFL declined comment on the arbitration's ruling, according to Thompson.