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Thursday, April 26, 2007
Michael Vick, Pit Bull Fighting, and The NFL's New Personal Conduct Policy
Last week, Rick had a terrific post that examined whether the NFL's new personal conduct policy affords Commissioner Roger Goodell too much discretion. We now hear, through Deadspin, that Michael Vick has possibly been running an illegal pit bull fighting ring, and it's interesting to speculate how Commissioner Goodell might apply the code to Vick.
So what has Vick allegedly done? Well, he owns a home in Smithfield, Virginia, where state and county animal abuse investigators were recently called in to investigate after local law enforcement officers, who were acting on a search warrant relating to drugs, found that the property was hosting fights between pit bulls. You can read the details here, but basically they found 70 dogs, many of whom were suffering from neglect (including injuries and dehydration). They also found overwhelming evidence of organized pit bull fighting that took place in three buildings behind the home. That evidence included "rape stands (used to allow fighting dogs to breed while preventing them from attacking each other), equipment used to build strength and endurance in fighting dogs, and controlled substances frequently used in dog-fighting." Pretty disgusting stuff, if true, and not to fan the flames, but check out some of the horrific injuries to dogs who are forced to partake in pit bull fighting, as found on Google Images--but be warned, they may make you sick.
In fairness to Vick, 1) no charges have been filed (yet); 2) while he owns the home, he doesn't live there; his nephew does; 3) we have not yet heard his side of the story--it's always easy to jump to conclusions when only side of the story is available; Vick may have an explanation that mitigates, if not exonerates, his role in what appears to be an illegal operation.
But what will Commissioner Goodell do if Michael Vick is indeed charged with animal abuse, which, under Virginia Law (Virginia, Code Ann. 3.1-796.122), is punishable by up to one year in prison and a $2,500 fine?
Sports Law Blog reader Will Li considers that question and wonders whether the sheer expansiveness and vagueness of the new personal conduct policy--characteristics that at first glance would seem to empower Commissioner Goodell--might ultimately prove to be his undoing:
With the news that Michael Vick is in trouble again, I'm wondering how Roger Goodell will act on this.Will makes a compelling case. Is he right?