Michael Vick is in trouble. After months of investigation, the federal government handed down an indictment charging Vick and several others with running and engaging in a dog-fighting venture. Vick has claimed innocence all along, saying he owned the house where this activity was going on, but it was his relatives taking advantage of his generosity.
The Feds say differently.
They say Vick was not only involved, but he was a ring leader, even so much as buying t-shirts and headbands for his “crew” that said “Bad Newz Kennels” and wearing them to the fights.
How did they get this information?
Obviously they spent a lot of time with a search warrant at the house in Virginia but they also found some of the other people who were involved with the fighting and told them they’d be going to jail if they didn’t give up some information. So the information is very specific.
Sixty-six dogs were found when the feds raided the house originally, 55 of them pit bulls. They were chained to car axles and kept from eating to make them more agitated. Witnesses say the losing dogs were killed, if they didn’t die in the ring, with a vote being taken whether they should be electrocuted, shot or beaten to death.
What kinds of people do this stuff?
I’ve heard the arguments that it’s part of the culture, that they’re just following tradition. That’s ridiculous. It’s against the law and everybody knows it. Dogs don’t have a mind of their own and using them to fight is wrong.
That’s where Michael Vick is in trouble. If you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time, maybe a strip club where a fight breaks out, you can beg off and even if you’re convicted of a crime, people really don’t care. But cruelty to animals and abuse is an unforgivable offense in the court of public opinion.
Plus, this is the federal government involved. It’s not some county prosecutor trying to make a name for himself. These are the guys who sent Martha Stewart to jail. If they can get past her army of lawyers, they can put Vick in jail, and they will.
That leaves NFL commissioner Roger Godell with a bit of a dilemma. With his actions against Chris Henry and Adam Jones, Godell has set a precedent of “no tolerance” when it comes to running afoul of the law. I don’t know how he can look at Vick, under a federal indictment, any differently.
Again, this is the feds we’re talking about and they’re not going to make a case, and make it so public without feeling like they have plenty of evidence.
Being a somewhat public figure, I asked my boss if they’d suspend me if I were under a federal indictment. Probably not, they said, but they’d take me off the air. Vick is the face of the Falcons, and in many respects (including the cover of Madden) the face of the league. Can they allow him to play with the indictment hanging over his head? The Players Association will have something to say about this but I don’t think Vick can play for now.
And if things go wrong, we might have seen the last of Michael Vick in the NFL.