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Bengals’ Keaton Signs but Protests

June 23, 2000

CINCINNATI (AP) _ Rookie running back Curtis Keaton signed a three-year contract Friday with the Cincinnati Bengals, but said he was unhappy over a ``loyalty clause″ that could cost him his signing bonus if he criticizes the team.

The $1.126 million contract gives Keaton a $300,000 signing bonus and salaries of $193,000, $275,000 and $358,000. The Bengals drafted him in the fourth round from James Madison University.

The Bengals have been insisting on inserting a contract clause that would cost a player his signing bonus if he publicly criticizes the team or its coaches. Several players have expressed concerns about it.

The union has said the clause potentially violates the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement with players, and is urging the league to overrule the Bengals’ clause. Bengals president Mike Brown thinks the clause is within his right as the employer.

Keaton signed the contract under protest with the understanding that the clause will be removed if it is found to be invalid, said Wesley Spencer, Keaton’s agent. Spencer said Friday he is awaiting the outcome of the union complaint to the NFL.

Bengals offensive lineman Willie Anderson and fifth-round draft pick Robert Bean also have signed contracts that included the clause.

The Bengals started using the clause after wide receiver Carl Pickens publicly blasted the organization for its decision to retain head coach Bruce Coslet after yet another losing season in 1999.

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