So as the NFL continues to stall the maxbet on taking any actions to suspend and/or otherwise punish Michael Vick for illegal dogfighting, the question that remains to be answered is why?
Waiting for the legal proceedings to play out, as the NFL “claims” it is doing, has never stopped the league from suspending players before. Regardless of trial outcomes, suspensions are the NFL norm in substance abuse cases. Even more precedent under which the league should punish Michael Vick immediately lies in the recent suspension of Pacman Jones — without a criminal conviction — for his off-the-field behavior.
So why does the league fail to act? One possible answer is that new commissioner Roger Goodell, facing his first major controversy as the NFL chief executive, simply doesn’t have the mettle of his predecessor, the great Paul Tagliabue.
A second, more insidious, answer is that the NFL is already well-aware how deep dogfighting runs inside the league and its players. Punishing Vick would mean publicly acknowledging the issue, an issue which the league would rather see simply disappear. Having set a dogfighting precedent, the league’s hands would be tied in any further cases–whether they came to light on their own accord or by Vick naming names to lessen his own legal woes.
And there is definite reason to believe that dogfighting is extremely prevalent inside the NFL. Take for example, Clinton Portis’s despicable defense of Vick in an interview on WAVY-TV, “I know a lot of back roads that got a dog fight if you want to go see it. But they’re not bothering those people because those people are not big names. I’m sure there’s some police got some dogs that are fighting them, some judges got dogs and everything else.” Portis went on to say he saw nothing criminal about dog fighting. Portis’s fellow interviewee laughed at his statements.
And in ESPN’s recent “Outside the Lines”, the net’s informant inside the dogfighting world “says Vick is not the only professional athlete deeply involved in the blood sport, estimating that at least 20 to 30 others, mostly football players, are in the dogfight game.”
If this were an isolated incident, would the NFL be afraid to act? Probably not. Why risk tarnishing the league’s image over one player? But if the NFL is already aware of wide-spread dogfighting amongst its players, it is very easy to see why league might be unwilling to act. In ignoring the issue, the NFL itself may very well be complicit in Vick’s and other players’ guilt.
Now that the case is out in the open, there will assuredly be leaks about who else has been involved in dogfighting… and who else knew about it and looked the other way. I, for one, hope the NFL does come to the conclusion that the Vick charges are severe enough to warrant immediate suspension. Otherwise, I will only be watching college football this fall.