Vick Suspended

Last week, news that Michael Vick had been indicted on dogfighting and conspiracy charges stunned sports fans — and apparently NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Yesterday, he ordered Michael Vick barred from preseason camp pending his own probe into the charges. Vick could find himself with plenty of time this fall to prepare for his defense:

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell yesterday ordered quarterback Michael Vick not to report to training camp with the Atlanta Falcons until the league has reviewed his legal troubles stemming from federal dogfighting charges.
Vick’s playing status is to be determined by Goodell, and the NFL gave no timetable for the decision other than to announce that the review would be completed “as soon as possible.” …
Others in the league have said that Vick, 27, could face a lengthy suspension under the NFL’s toughened conduct policy imposed by Goodell in April. The policy empowers Goodell to suspend a player even if he has not been convicted of a crime. After enacting the policy, Goodell suspended Tennessee Titans cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones for a full season and imposed half-season suspensions on Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chris Henry and former Chicago Bears defensive tackle Tank Johnson.

Goodell met with Vick in April on the allegations of dogfighting and gambling, the latter of which really will concern the NFL. Vick apparently insisted that he had no idea what had happened on the property, but the indictments allege that Vick had been an active participant in staging the fights, killing the dogs, and gambling on the events. If Goodell determines that Vick lied in their initial meeting, that may be enough for Goodell to open up a starting QB slot for Joey Harrington in Atlanta for the entire season.
While animal lovers would cheer that decision, the real problem stems from the illegal gambling. The nexus of gamblers and athletes results in questions that shake the integrity of the games they play. Especially for an athlete whose inconsistencies are so widely noted, the presence of illegal gambling — especially on a vile and illegal “sport” such as dogfighting — will prompt fans to wonder whether Vick may have paid off some debts through point-shaving. The NFL has a deep interest in keeping the game clean and eliminating these kinds of questions, and Goodell will probably act long before Vick tries to defend himself in court.
Vick and his dwindling band of supporters will protest, saying that he has not been convicted in court of any wrongdoing — but that doesn’t require the NFL from acting in its own interest. If they find evidence that Vick has violated his contract and associated with gamblers in violation of their rules, then Vick needs to go. Goodell isn’t required to sacrifice the NFL for the sake of one player’s extraordinarily bad judgment.

19 thoughts on “Vick Suspended”

  1. Cap – I find myself walking a very fine line on this. Vick’s supporters are correct – he has only been indicted…no conviction YET. However the evidence is quite compelling and extremely horrific. The Junior Logician (a junior dog trainer) is of the opinion that the NFL has not gone far enough. I have had to remind him (and myself to be honest) that the NFL did the right and legal thing. Suspending him, pending the outcome of the trial, is the best that they can do for now.
    If he is found guilty though…..

  2. I hold no brief for Michael Vick or dog-fighting – BUT – I am fed up with people being tried and convicted in the media before a trial is even scheduled.
    Michael Vick may very well be guilty, but we should all take a cautionary note from the Duke Lacrosse players, Richard Jewell. Gary Condit, Karl Rove, et. al.. The news media, especially the 24 hour news networks, have demonstrated a complete lack of scruples in flogging presumed innocents with the “absolute certainty” of guilt. When they are proven wrong, the media hides behind the fact that all of their competitors were covering the same story.
    The NFL is free to act in its own perceived interest. Michael Vick, should he not be convicted, is also free to sue the league for billions.

  3. It’s funny how ESPN doesn’t really mention the gambling aspect of it, they are only talking about the dog fighting aspect.
    MLB did suspend Leo Durocher for a year amidst gambling accusations,
    so such a thing is not without precedent in pro sports.
    If Vick was involved in dog fighting, then he can rot in hell for all I care.

  4. I agree with the cautionary note and need to avoid any Duke-like injustice. One principle way to accomplish that is for the NFL (Goodell) to listen carefully to Vick’s defense and give him the benefit of the doubt on any evidence/explanation that he can produce. Likewise, the NFL’s investigation should be done promptly, and not dragged out just to see how things play out in the court system or in the court of public opinion. If it strongly looks like he lied about gambling and/or was first-hand terribly abusing dogs, I’m OK with extending his suspension for a time, but from what I’ve heard, I think a whole season is way too much at this point. I also agree with the previous post that Vick should retain the right to sue for any violation of “due process” from the internal NFL actions, as well as in the Fed. Courts.

  5. There is a difference between the Duke case and Vick’s though. And the difference is that, to anyone who was paying attention, it was obvious in very short order that there was something really wrong with the case. Sure, it took the media awhile to catch up.
    But one thing that hasn’t been reported is that the NFL commissioner actually did Vick a favor by ordering him not to report to camp. It’s been reported in a number of places that Vick has a clause that requires repayment of his signing bonus if he doesn’t report to camp on time. And with camp opening only 30 minutes from when his arraignment hearing was scheduled, he was going to miss that.
    With him being ordered not to attend camp he’s got a pretty fair argument against that clause being enforced, I’d say.

  6. Especially for an athlete whose inconsistencies are so widely noted, the presence of illegal gambling — especially on a vile and illegal “sport” such as dogfighting — will prompt fans to wonder whether Vick may have paid off some debts through point-shaving.

    Nonsense. I read the indictment. Debts involved would have maxed out in the $20K range for a guy making millions upon millions. There is really no reason to pile on here.
    Nevermind the fact that we aren’t talking about the mob or bookies here, but a fairly tight group of dog figthing fans. I have no doubt that the liklihood of there being “point shaving” implications from this are absolutely zero or less.

  7. One parallel with the Duke case is that this case rest entirely on hearsay witnesses that, if you read the indictment, rarely have anything to say that directly implicates Vick. There is also a lot “on or about spring…”. I don’t think Vick wants anything to do with some protracted trial, but I also think the odds of him being convicted are considerably less than 50%.

  8. For all we know on this case the Atlanta Falcons themselves may have chimed in on the decision of the NFL. They surely don’t want to lose Vick’s services as a top NFL QB, but they surely don’t want this event hanging over their head throughout the season and would rather move on without him. They didn’t want to be the bad guys here and left it to the NFL, which I am sure they were pressuring to act.
    It’s a fine line but it’s a way of life, people get suspended from their jobs in all line of work when they are indicted. Let’s not cry a tear just because this guy happens to work as a QB in the NFL.
    This is the Vick family remember, his younger brother has been in and out of trouble also. This alone does not make Vick guilty but it surely does not help his cause.

  9. Let’s not conflate Vick’s legal troubles with his possible NFL contract violations. They’re separate issues.
    If he violated his contract, the NFL can terminate him even if he’s free and clear with the law. And the criminal legal standard doesn’t apply to the contract violation issues.
    Sports and gambling are a poisonous mixture, the NFL not only has to be clean, it has to be perceived as clean. Hence the players are contractually obligated to avoid even association with gamblers.

  10. deadrody,
    I’d discount your opinion that the conviction chances are below 50%.
    Vick’s claims to “never” go to the property have been countered by numerous witnesses, Vick receiving mail at the property, etc.
    Vick’s claims to have nothing to do with the dogs are countered by witnesses stating that Vick had entered a nearby town multiple times to buy supplies for the dogs, etc.
    The preponderance of the evidence will build up by the time the trial’s over.
    While it’s questionable whether the jury will believe eyewitness testimony that Vick killed the dogs or ran dog-fights, it will be very easy to prove Vick’s ties to the property and the fact that dog-fighting occurred on the grounds.
    (I won’t list all the evidence here, but the property is Vick’s, the kennels at the house were registered online as Vick’s K-9 Kennels with a Mike Vick listed as the owner, the website was registered to a Vick company, Vick was receiving mail at the house and spotted in town buying supplies for the dogs, etc.)
    It’s a stretch to say that Vick will definitely be convicted, but I’d say that he could have Clarence Darrow on the case and would still have a hard time getting off with the government’s evidence as it is now.
    (If they can get certain evidence tossed due to improper procedure or other technicalities, his chances of acquittal could jump dramatically.)

  11. deadrody, Vick could (and I’m only putting this out as a possible scenario, not as an assertion that it has actually happened) have done point shaving/losing simply because the gamblers were blackmailing him.
    “Make sure you don’t beat the point spread this week, or we’ll blow your cover, and then you’ll lose your multimillion dollar contract”.

  12. Vick is innocent until proven guilty and fully deserves due process, including not suffering from character assassination in the media.
    However, with that said, there are many salient differences between the dog fighting cases and the LAX one. For one thing, this does not involve a single incident at a place only marginally associated with Vick. Clearly illegal activities repeatedly took place over a long period of time at property owned by Vick and, as such, somewhat his responsibility even if he was not there.
    Other aspects are the commercial interests and contract clauses under which the adult Vick has operated and benefitted. Those aspects are not fine print but constitute the very aspects that produced the wealth that Vick used to acquire the property involved. Thus, the point already noted by rbj, while not terribly likely, certainly cannot be dismissed.
    Should folk in the public eye be held to an artificial standard such as may be the case in this instance? Maybe, or maybe not, but here it is the same public attention that generated Vick’s wealth that is forcing these actions. This is another crucial delta between the LAX case and this one.

  13. If it’s a jury pool drawn from downtown Atlanta, the chances of Vick being convicted run below zero. Even if they produce video tap of Vick directly handling the dogs.

  14. Conviction has nothing to do with it. NFL rules are very specific about behavior which brings disrepute to the league. Vick can sue all he wants; he has no case against the NFL. Better to save his ducats for attorneys to keep his sorry behind out of prison.
    I found Emmit Smith’s comments interesting. He said young star players need to disassociate themselves from their “old crowd.” Indeed, it apparently was Vick’s continuing relationship with his old “Bad News” (Newport News, VA) buddies which led to all this. Of course, Vick was the one with the money to do it, and could have told them to bugger off at any time, so he can hardly blame peer pressure.
    Even if Vick manages to avoid felony conviction (which he might do by cooperating with authorities; he could probably put them onto literally dozens of bigger fish in the dog-fighting underworld), what NFL franchise would want him on their team? Pro fans want to win and will overlook an awful lot of bad behavior – but many of them have dogs. How do you explain supporting Vick when your seven year-old kid asks you what “dog fighting” is?
    It is, as Senator Byrd put it, “Barbaric . . . barbaric, barbaric . . . barbaric!”

  15. As I mentioned in a comment to the previous post on Vick, the NFL likely isn’t very concerned about the gambling aspect of it because it was not gambling on NFL games themselves. Pro sports leagues generally prohibit their members from betting on league events, but their policies on other gambling vary widely. The NBA, for example, prohibits all gambling, on sports or anything else except horse racing, for its game officials, a fact that was brought up during the still-unfolding Tim Donaghy scandal (not that that apparently ever stopped Donaghy, obviously). On the other hand, the National Hockey League barely bat an eye when a coach in that league, Rick Tocchet, was busted for financing an illegal sports gambling ring, because that involved betting on football and not hockey.
    If the NFL doesn’t see fit to make a big issue of the gambling aspect of this case, that tells me that either (a) they don’t have a very robust policy with regard to gambling on events other than NFL games, and/or (b) they find the dogfighting and Vick’s criminal associates more than disturbing enough on their own to warrant coming down hard on Vick (i.e. that making an issue of the gambling on top of all that would just be overkill).

  16. The fact that Vick was (allegedly at this point) conducting such unlawful activities on his property would open him up to irresistable blackmail threats by organized crime or independent entrepreneurs looking to influence gambling on the NFL.

  17. I’m in the military and was denied base housing because of my pit-bull. Guys like him who give them a bad name should be thrown in with the rest of the organized crime gang.

  18. Allow me to add my voice of disgust for the practice of declaring someone guilty until proven innocent. We are, all of us, far too ready to begin to levy punishments prior to any conviction. We claim to hold “innocent until proven guilty” sacrosanct, but then we go and behave as if we actually believe the opposite.
    The NFL has suspended Michael Vick from activities WITH PAY. The fact that he continues to receive pay is crucial. They are taking exactly the right approach: He hasn’t been convicted; he deserves his day in court; the NFL is protecting its reputation. If he had been suspended without pay or exiled from the league, the NFL’s actions at this point would be substantively no different from the outrages perpetrated against the Duke Lacrosse team by the prosecutor and the Duke faculty. The ‘quality of the evidence’ is not sufficient to demand punishment now for Mr. Vick. The court system does that.

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