Wed, Jun 08, 2005 - Page 20 News List

Trial averted in dispute over NFL jersey number

`NUMBERGATE' Clinton Portis agreed to pay former Redskins teammate Ifeanyi Ohalete the balance due for a deal that gave Portis the Redskins jersey No. 26


A trial between former NFL teammates over a jersey number was averted on Monday when running back Clinton Portis agreed to pay US$18,000 to former Washington Redskins teammate Ifeanyi Ohalete.

Ohalete will receive all but US$2,000 of the US$20,000 he was seeking as the balance due for a US$40,000 agreement that gave Portis the Redskins jersey No. 26 last year. The case appeared headed for a civil trial in a Maryland District Court yesterday.

John Steren, Ohalete's attorney, said the player was content to give up the US$2,000, given the time and trouble it would have taken for him to travel from Arizona for a trial.

When Portis signed as a free agent with the Redskins last year, he said he wanted to wear the same jersey number he wore for two seasons with the Denver Broncos. However, No. 26 already belonged to Ohalete, and he was adamant that he wanted to keep it. Protracted negotiations led to a contract signed by Portis, Ohalete and witness Brad Berlin, the Redskins equipment manager.

It called for Portis to pay Ohalete US$40,000 in three installments: US$20,000 immediately, and two of US$10,000 during the season.

Portis paid the US$20,000 up front and got his coveted No. 26. Ohalete switched to No. 30.

But Ohalete then was cut by the Redskins during preseason training camp and was claimed off waivers by Arizona. Portis felt Ohalete's departure voided the rest of the contract, so he didn't pay the final two installments.

It's not uncommon on all levels for athletes to be attached to certain jersey numbers.

Eli Manning, for example, had to pay for punter Jeff Feagles' family vacation to Florida to snag the preferred No. 10 after the New York Giants drafted Manning with the No. 1 overall pick last year. Feagles also got a new kitchen in his home from Plaxico Burress when he gave Burress his No. 17 after the wide receiver signed with New York.

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