The Felony That’s Dogging The NFL
Wednesday - June 06, 2007
The National Football League has a problem. A big problem. Whether or not Michael Vick was aware that dogs were being fought on his property, or even if the felonious action occurred, the problem is bigger than one player’s possible involvement. The real concern is that this blood sport seems to exist comfortably among some league members without even a hint of remorse or an attempt to hide opinions.
While for a decade baseball purposely ignored the effects performance-enhancing drugs were having on the sport, no one, with the exception of Jose Canseco, dared to suggest taking steroids or human growth hormones was a proper thing to do. Players and admin types alike, not willing to point fingers, were at least smart enough to talk about its dangers while covering its use.
The NFL seems to have no such problem with P.C. Its players are into dog fighting and they don’t seem too concerned if you know it. This was partially confirmed by Redskins’running back Clinton Portis. After taking part in a team fan event, Portis told Norfolk TV station WAVY that if Vick got convicted he would be “behind bars for no reason” and that “it’s his dogs. If that’s what he wants to do, do it.” Most disturbing was that Portis didn’t even bat an eye after the reporter informed him that dog fighting is a felony. One would think that after three years of higher learning he would be smart enough to dial down the comments when discussing such serious legal matters. Apparently not. Teammate Chris Samuels laughed during most of the interview.
The Redskins, of course, issued an apology on behalf of Portis afterward and Samuel later said they were wrong to joke about it, saying that it’s very serious.
Felonies usually are.
One of the most disturbing aspects about the Vick case is that this behavior is not new. In 2005 former running back LeShon Johnson pleaded guilty in a dog-fighting in a case in which more than 200 dogs were seized and 20 people convicted. A si.com article by George Dohrmann quotes an unnamed NFL running back calling dog fighting a hobby. “[Fighting dogs] is a fun thing, a hobby, to some [athletes]. People are crazy about pit bulls. Guys have these nice, big fancy houses, and there is always a pit bull in the back. And everyone wants to have the biggest, baddest dog on the block.”
The story goes on to report that in 1991 former Dallas Cowboy Nate Newton was arrested (the charges were later dropped) at a dog fight in Texas, and that Tyrone Wheatley praised fighting dogs in a 2001 Sports Illustrated article.
While commissioner Roger Goodell cannot legislate morality among the players, he can act to protect the image of the league. In the shadow of his severe handling of “Pacman” Jones and Chris Henry, he must send a clear message that league cannot, and will not allow any relationship between players and this horrific sport. Though the government must establish a clear line of proof about Vick’s, or any other player’s involvement, the NFL is under no such mandate. League rules say a player can be disciplined if that play-er’s conduct undermines or puts at risk the integrity and reputation of the NFL even if it is not criminal in nature. Goodell may have enough information to move now.
There are the black buildings and fence to hide the structures at night, the so-called “rape stand” for the breeding of violent dogs, blood, syringes and injectable diuretics commonly given to fighting dogs, animals with wounds to their ears, necks and legs, and informants who claim to have witnessed Vick’s involvement, and at least one other who claims the property contains the remains of at least 30 animals either killed in action or put down after serious injuries received in fights. A search warrant has been issued to allow a search for the carcasses.
If all this weren’t enough there is that fact that this whole story arose from an investigation into illegal drug activity in the home that he owned.
Blood sports involving animals are nothing new. In ancient and medieval times it was considered highbrow affair to watch a group of dogs take on a lion, a bull or a bear. Then again, it was also a time when invading forces would murder entire villages as a means of control, and where brother would poison brother as a matter of career advancement. You’d think over the last 1,000 years mankind evolved away from such pursuits. Evidently not.
Following a team event in Atlanta, a cocky Vick spoke to a reporter from WAGA-TV about his reception from fans.
“Everywhere I go, all over the world people still support Mike Vick,” he said. “Regardless of what I go through, people will love me.”
If Vick is found guilty of staging, betting on or even watching dogs kill each other for sport and profit, God help us all if he truly has that type of support.
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