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By Anonymous Mike, pseudonymously.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Rock and a Hard Place

In my household, when the words "sports" and horror" are used in the same sentence it is usually because Chad Tracy is at bat with runners in scoring position. However now it takes on a whole new, and much more serious, meaning.

Atlanta Falcons QB Michael Vick has just been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges related to dog fighting. The business, I refuse to call it a sport, involves pit bulls who are bred and trained to fight one another within a pit. Such fights continue until either one dog submits or is killed with the living loser often killed by its owner through strangulation, drowning, or gun shot. It's supposed to be quite the industry with purses going upwards of $100,000, champion dogs sold for $40,000, and a whole industry of underground magazines and DVDs.

When this story broke in the Spring, Mr. Vick admitted that such actions went on at his property but claimed that he had no prior knowledge of it. Now that he had been indicted, the questions is what becomes of Mr. Vick's career as an NFL QB?

Lester Munson has an interesting piece over at outlining the legal odds facing Vick but even with the Richmond federal court's "rocket docket" it's doubtful any verdict will be reached by the end of the NFL season. Does the NFL wait under the presumption of innocence?

I say no.

I don't know all the technicalities of the agreement between the NFL and its players union and imagine lawyers at the NFL are right now looking at every comma and preposition in that agreement but the problem with Mr. Vick's actions is that he has made it close to impossible for the Falcons football team to approach its upcoming season with anything approaching normalcy. Keep in mind that Vick's initial court appearance is on the same day that training camp opens. The Falcons would then have to prepare for the season with Vick serving as a constant media circus. It's doubtful, he would be able to to do his job.

Strike One

Then there is the fact that this story has been circulating in the media for the past several months with reports that the Falcons ownership and the NFL Commissioner have asked Mr. Vick to come clean on the story and get ahead of it, but so far all Vick has done is blame others for the dog fighting on his property. Given a chance and with the NFL cracking down on criminal behavior throughout the league, Vick decided to make a fool out of the league brass and his own owner.

Strike Two

Mr. Vick is multi-million dollar industry; with his huge contract and numerous endorsement deals. He is the public face of the franchise, a face the team recommitted to this past off-season when they decided to trade back-up and heir apparent Matt Schaub to Houston. In short, Vick has been granted an enormous degree of public responsibility and was rewarded for it. In turn... he squandered it.

Strike Three

I won't go as far as to say he should be released outright, though the past four months provides enough evidence for it. Keep in mind that the Bears released Tank Johnson after he was stopped and arrested under suspicion of DUI, despite the fact that the charges were later dropped after blood tests proved Mr. Johnson was below the legal limit. When you are a public figure in the spotlight, earning massive amounts of money, the criteria for holding your job is tougher than the presumption of innocence within a court of law.

So here's what I think the NFL and Falcons should do... tell Mr. Vick to take a leave of absence for the remainder of the season. Pay him for it if you must but tell him to go away and get his life in order. If he is proved innocence, welcome him back with open arms. If he is found guilty of a felony, whether he ends up in jail or not, cut him and then ban him from the league for the next season.

To those who have been given much, much is expected.