The National Football League has a new sheriff in town. The name is Roger Goodell and he says he plans to get tough on assorted problem children.
To clarify his position, the new commissioner implemented a personal-conduct policy this spring. The message was clear: Tarnish the league’s image and you will pay. In the past, the legal system was allowed to run its course. Those convicted were punished. Those not guilty usually skated.
Goodell, however, apparently believes that the concept of right and wrong extends far beyond legal statutes. Before he scaled an inch of moral high ground, he suspended three players _ Adam Pacman Jones (season), Chris Henry (eight games) and Tank Johnson (half season).
These three were easy targets. They’re starters, not stars. Flipping the switch on star power has a price.
It’s easy to bench a strong safety, but what about the star quarterback? What about Michael Vick?
So the moment of truth has arrived for Goodell. Is he Andy Taylor (of Mayberry fame) or Buford Pusser (Walking Tall)? Time will tell.
Up until a few months ago, Vick carried minimal baggage. He flipped off disgruntled fans during a game, got caught traveling with a suspicious water bottle and blew off a meeting with a congressman.
So he’s not an Eagle Scout. But Vick’s latest predicament runs much deeper than immaturity. Property the Falcons’ quarterback owns is at the crux of an investigation into an alleged dog fighting operation.
Multiple federal searches reportedly have uncovered evidence that the Virginia residence was used for training and fighting pitbulls. More than 50 dogs have been seized along with various training equipment, including a treadmill and a rape stand, a device that secures the animals during mating, so they don’t destroy each other.
Dog fighting is a felony in all but a few states. No one has been charged. At least not yet. For now, BadNewz kennels appears safe.
Vick has not commented publicly. Neither have the Falcons. Nike, which boasts Vick as a client, has maintained its relationship with the star athlete. Due process, the company says, must be observed.
The presumption of innocence will buy a little time. We know that Vick owns the property where dog fighting likely took place. We don’t know whether he actively participated. That’s for the Feds to decide.
Another question or two looms: How much did Vick know? If he did know, why didn’t he do anything about it?
That’s for Sheriff Goodell to decide.