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Monday, August 13, 2007
Report: NFL to Suspend Michael Vick for 2007 NFL Season

According to Yahoo! Sports' Jason Cole, Michael Vick will soon be suspended for the entire 2007 NFL season. The suspension reflects Vick's recent indictment by a federal grand jury for his alleged involvement in an illegal dog fighting ring at his home in Virginia. Cole implies, however, that if Vick is found not guilty or if charges are dropped during the 2007 season, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will likely stop the suspension and allow Vick to return to the Falcons, assuming they still want him by that point.

To put this looming suspension in some historical context, the NFL has an extensive history of imposing relatively long, sometimes permanent suspensions (see this Associated Press story, which details NFL suspensions over the years). Then again, the vast majority--over 90%--of those suspensions have been for failed drug tests, rather than for criminal charges. Along those lines, whether a player deserves a season-long suspension for an indictment is certainly debatable. We've discussed the serious limitations and critiques of indictments, and we know that in a court of law, an indicted person is innocent until proven guilty, a point which seems particularly meaningful when the trial hasn't even begun yet.

Making matters arguably even less fair for Vick, it's not clear--as we've discussed--that he can give his side of the story to Goodell and other NFL officials and feel certain that such conversations will not be used against him in his criminal trial, particularly given Goodell's understandable cooperation with prosecutors. Moreover, according to an NFL source who spoke with Cole, the league has decided to suspend Vick based on what federal prosecutors--who are obviously advocating for Vick's guilt--have told the league and on what its own security personnel have uncovered. What's not clear is whether Vick has been able to give his side of the story in such uncovering.

But then again, maybe the NFL doesn't need to hear from Vick. After-all, and as discussed by Geoffrey two days ago, the league suspended Pacman Jones for the entire 2007 NFL season even though he has not (yet) been convicted of anything. Moreover, the league suspended Odell Thurman for the entire 2006 NFL season for a drunken-driving charge (he had been suspended 4 games for a failed drug test, and that suspension was lengthened following his arrest).

But if we go back in time to the the pre-personal conduct policy era, we notice that several NFL players were likewise indicted, but did not receive any sanction by the NFL, let alone a season-long ban. Most notably, Ray Lewis was indicted for two murders in 2000, and yet was not suspended by the NFL, nor was he suspended when he pled guilty to obstruction of justice relating to those charges.

Setting aside the presence of the new personal conduct policy policy, one might find it paradoxical that an alleged murder of humans does not receive a suspension, while an alleged abuser of dogs receives one for an entire season. On the other hand, the NFL has come under increased fire over the last couple of years for player misbehavior, and thus comparing what allegedly occurred in 2000 and 2007 may not be contextually fair.


Don't forget that Thurman's suspension was extended for another full season (for all of 2007) based on the League's assessment that he would likely violate the substance abuse policy again.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 8/13/2007 8:07 AM  


from the Yahoo! sports article referenced, it looks like really does have an easy out here. No matter what our feelings regarding the alleged crime, and nevermind the fact that this suspension would come down based on a indictment alone, the fact that the charges iclude illegal gambling looks like something the NFL can really rely on here. Considering the most recent NBA referee-gambling scandal that we have discussed on the blog, I think the NFL will most likely use the gambling charges as their fall-back position should the suspension be challenged.

Blogger Jimmy H -- 8/13/2007 9:58 AM  

Given that Vick has been charged but not yet convicted of any crime, a season-long suspension might be an excessive punishment in terms of its effect on his career. It is important to take the career-effects factor into account when dealing with athletes given the shortness of their careers.

An interesting illustration of this point occurred recently when the California State Athletic Commission dealt with heavyweight boxer James Toney and UFC fighter Hermes Franca, both of whom had tested positive for banned substances. It could be argued that both men were deserving of equal punishments - Toney offered a (weak) excuse in his favor but had tested positive in the past, while Franca had a clean record but offered no real defense. The CSAC ended up suspending Toney for six months and Franca for one year, despite their equal blameworthiness.

While these decisions have come in for some criticism, I would argue that both men were, in fact, punished equally. Toney is 38 while Franca is 32, and a case can be made that a six-month suspension for a 38-year-old athlete is just as bad in career terms as a one-year suspension for a 32-year-old (I do not know, however, if this actually was what lead to the CSAC's decisions).

And so with Vick. NFL careers are notoriously brief, and a one-year suspension could greatly impair Vick's chances of ever playing again even if he is cleared of all charges. While it may be that Goodell has to do something, a full season's suspension may simply be too severe.

Anonymous Peter -- 8/13/2007 10:26 PM  

Two more co-defendants flipping on Vick. What must the feds have on these guys? Rappers say they won't snitch on serial killers but these guys are rolling over? Looks like Vick should have been hanging out with rappers...

Anonymous Anonymous -- 8/13/2007 11:12 PM  

Another one bites the dust. Does fame and fortune make people take a leave of their senses? Who would risk a lucrative career over a dog fight? Please help me understand!

Anonymous Anonymous -- 8/21/2007 4:25 PM  

Please help me understand something. We in this country kill animals for sport yet no one seems to be in an uproar over that. We have the highest murder rate of any "civilized" society yet no one seems to care. Harvard-educated, white boys in business suits are allowed to legally sell cigarettes to other human beings knowing what the results will be for a large number of their customers. Insurance companies are very adept at denying life-saving surgery or treatments to their policy holders based on cost. These are examples of state-sanctioned killing. Sure these examples may seem benign, but it is killing nonetheless. Compared to the real, large-scale death issues our society faces, Michael Vick deserves about as much of our attention as Paris and Nicole.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 8/22/2007 3:39 PM  

this is what happens when an animal owns an animal..

Blogger antdawg20 -- 8/22/2007 7:02 PM  

Michael Vick needs to be stripped naked, tied down, have an attack dog rip him apart, then hanged until near death and then drowned until dead. I would like to see it on CNN. He needs to fell what all of those dogs felt. Football again - hopefully not in this lifetime.

Anonymous Vickshouldsuffer -- 8/24/2007 11:32 PM  

I am horrified by the details of dogfighting - dogs tortured, beaten, starved, maimed, electrocuted, drowned, etc. People involved in this crime have serious, intense psychological problems, and need to be helped immediately so that they may not kill again. I am glad to know that Michael Vick's crimes are being taken seriously by the public - there is no excuse for animal cruelty.

People around the world will be celebrating and honoring animals on World Animal Day, October 4, 2007. For more information, or, if you would like to post a prayer for animals born into the cruel and inhumane world of dogfighting, please visit our site.

Nancy J. Cronk
Founder, Chair and Chaplain
Interfaith Association of Animal Chaplains

Blogger Animal Chaplain -- 8/25/2007 3:16 AM  

Complaining that some people care more about animals than people is a statement based on an assumption that people defending animals don't care about people--which is impossible to know - That statement lacks validity.

Even with that put aside, consider the fact that most people have been treated better by dogs than they have humans. That, in my opinion, makes the escalated outrage understandable. Maybe even justified.

Blogger Cat -- 8/25/2007 4:55 PM  

Also, as a rule, most of us try and stick to the "innocent until proven guilty" rule. I suspect it was the sickening details in the indictment that makes most of us more inclined to jump that step. Now that Vick has admitted to what has really angered the public, it would seem that our nausea and anger is well placed.

I can only imagine the terror of the dogs that were unsuccessfully hung, then drowned in a bucket by Vick and his friends.

If it were up to me, Vick and his "friends" would be thrown in prison nude and cuffed. Don't forget the rape stand and video camera.

Blogger Cat -- 8/25/2007 5:06 PM  

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