The hammer came down on Falcons quarterback Michael Vick on Tuesday. The axe should come next.
Vick, along with three associates, was indicted on federal charges related to a dogfighting operation held on the grounds of property he owns in Surry County, Va. Though Vick has only been charged formally with one count of “conspiracy to sponsor federally outlawed dogfighting,” the star quarterback has been placed at the scene where losing dogs were summarily executed by various methods, including gun shot, drowning, hanging and even electrocution.
Forget the legal ramifications that state Vick could face a maximum of five years in prison and possible additional counts of animal cruelty that each carry an additional one-year sentence, Vick should be done in the NFL if these charges are true.
Vick's defense to this point has been to plead ignorance to the operation. In April, when the house was first raided by authorities and a backyard breeding and training ground was uncovered, Vick's response was simple and evasive.
“I'm never there. I'm never at the house,” he said then. “I left the house with my family members and my cousin. They just haven't been doing the right thing. The issue will get resolved.
“It's unfortunate I have to take the heat behind it. If I'm not there, I don't know what's going on. It's a call for me to really tighten down on who I'm trying to take care of. When it all boils down, people will try to take advantage of you and leave you out to dry. Lesson learned for me.”
At the moment, that statement is looking incredibly thin, if not altogether untrue. The indictment places Vick on the premises as recently as this past April and further details his involvement in past fights. As reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, in March of 2003 Vick and his partners at “Bad Newz Kennels” — the organizational title for the Surry County operation — sponsored a female pit bull and another dog in two fights. When both of Vick's dogs lost, he grabbed a backpack from a vehicle and payed off his losses in $23,000 cash.
No skin off his back. Not after signing the largest NFL contract in the history of the league, $130 million, in 2004. The defeated female pit bull fared far worse. Purnell Peace, a co-defendant in the indictment, allegedly conferred with Vick, soaked the dog with water, then electrocuted it.
It should go without saying that this is inexcusable. Short of the charges and events listed in the indictment being false, I see no reason why Vick should ever wear pads in the NFL again. There's no rationalization for this. None. You can't blame this one on society, or poor schooling, or poverty, or circumstance. This isn't a case of “wrong place, wrong time.” This is sadism.
In my mind, this is worse than Chris Henry's repeated poor judgment and it's as bad, if not worse, than the Pac Man Jones shooting debacle in Las Vegas. This wasn't impaired thinking. This wasn't a heat-of-the-moment, tragically-bad decision. This was premeditated.
Federal investigators found items specifically used for breeding fighting dogs on the property, including treadmills, a “break stick,” used to pry open the dogs' mouths, and a “rape stand,” used to secure aggressive female dogs for breeding purposes. The boys of Bad Newz Kennels even had that name inscribed on t-shirts and headbands to promote themselves.
This is sick. What kind of person could involve themselves with something like this? Electrocution? Think about what has to go into that process — finding an electrical source with enough power to kill a dog, protecting yourself from the same deadly current — it's grotesque to even consider. What kind of person profits from pain, either financially or, even more disturbing, emotionally? Do you really want someone like that as your employee?
There is the possibility that Vick is not guilty, that the charges are inaccurate and that all of this will go away. But if it is true, and Commissioner Roger Goodell's policy on criminal involvement is to remain credible, drastic actions should be taken.
The NFL needs to make a statement that this sort of behavior will not be tolerated and encourage its players to distance themselves from “friends” associated with destructive practices. Pending the ruling of the courts, and based on the severity of the transgression relative to other suspensions handed out thus far by Goodell, Vick ought to be banned from the league.