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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.