A Very American Coup By Michael – Louis Ingram, Editor-in-Chief...
The Vick Dogfighting Drama Continues
In my research and with my website (BQB-Site.com), I have always tried to accentuate the positives of the African American quarterback’s journey preferring to tell the public about “how” far the black quarterback has evolved over a relatively short period of time including their triumphs and obstacles overcome.
But I also recognize that the Michael Vick dog fighting story including the 27-year old Falcons quarterback being indicted Tuesday along with three others on charges that they sponsored dogfighting is extremely topical and won’t go away.
Some (including Washington Redskins RB Clinton Portis) may hold the opinion that it’s only “dogs” we are talking about, but the case is a lexicon of stories within a story that include the humanity of dog fighting, race, athletic privilege, NFL policing and several other topics that will be debated on talk radio, message boards, blogs, the “water cooler”, and everywhere else that supercedes your average athlete jurisprudence story.
The case called “Bad Newz Kennels,” was chronicled in a scathing 18-page federal indictment that alleges Vick and his co-defendants have been involved in the dogfighting operation since 2001, which would go back to his rookie year with the Falcons after being the 1st overall pick in the 2001 NFL Draft.
Vick outside of marquee quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Tom Brady is the NFL’s other poster player. You can’t turn on the television or read any kind of the news on the NFL without seeing the charismatic, hip-hop, young, and African-American Vick, who to me is truly the football player that is “now”.
He is debatably the most electrifying player in the NFL, which just happens to be the most popular game in the United States by far and he has brought “Streetball” to the masses where every NFL game that he plays in is like running around the Buick in the street to score a touchdown or a live action version of mega game EA Sports John Madden football.
He definitely is not your typical quarterback with his talents, style of play, and public image debated often. He is coming off an already difficult 2006 season that saw him become the first quarterback to run for 1,000 yards in a season (1,039 yards) and established a career high of 20 TD’s passing, but he didn’t lead the Falcons to the playoffs for the 2nd straight year while throwing for a bad 54% completion percentage and looking like a high school quarterback in some games throwing for less than 100 yards.
The end of the season didn’t treat him any better as he clashed with his since fired coach Jim Mora, was fined $10,000 for flipping the bird to local fans, had the water bottle incident at the airport, and missed a flight to D.C. to lobby before members of Congress for increased funding for after-school programs.
Those incidents were only the tip of the iceberg compared to the extreme public flogging that is coming from the millions of dog owners in the United States, who will now treat him like “Persona non grata” and turn their ire on him for the despicable practice of dogfighting.
Can you imagine when he is announced in opposing stadiums and “Who let the dogs out” is blaring as fans scream who knows what at the mercurial quarterback.
It is hard to believe that Vick has fallen so quickly, because in the past he was popular enough that his No. 7 jersey was the number two seller among NFL players (Reebok-2005) and he was on the cover Madden in 2004, even though he has not even been to a Super Bowl.
I think the public, like myself didn’t wanted to believe that one of our heroes could be allegedly involved in such a reprehensible crime. I wrestled with writing and saying anything on the situation for some time, because I know how some in the media love a negative story and I wanted to see if any of the months of hearsay were going to lead to anything.
In the back of my mind I always hoped for the best giving Vick the benefit of doubt and believed that he had the problem of surrounding himself with the wrong kind of the people including some family members taking advantage of him.
As we now know there was “fire” from the months of “smoke” and Vick, who was described as a “heavyweight” in a recent ESPN investigative interview has been implicated.
Will he be exonerated, convicted, plea-bargained, or any other legal word? W we will have to wait and see. I first and foremost believe that before the public flogging of one of the NFL’s stars begins that patience is necessary.
The indictment, which some people thought wasn’t coming (Sorry, Mort) is now here and it is the first round of a lengthy process. The process will definitely hangover the upcoming NFL season much like the “Pacman” Jones suspension or Ben Roethlisberger’s motorcycle incident last year.
A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Vick would not be arrested and instead he was ordered to appear in U.S. District Court in Richmond for his first hearing on July 26th, which ironically is one the first days of Falcons training camp.
I suspect the case will have postponements and other legal wrangling, so I am more interested in “where” certain individuals/entities from this soap opera will go from here.
The Falcons are scheduled to report to training camp on July 25th, but I am sure that his number one concern is the nightmare that, If convicted, he could face up to six years in prison, $350,000 in fines and restitution. I don’t know how he is going to be able to concentrate on a playbook, but I sure he will be on the field if allowed to by Falcons owner Arthur Blank and the Commish and he will let his attorney’s handle the case while trying to muddle through the 17 week grind of the NFL season.
I am sure until camp and through the season he will continue to go in bunker mode and try to concentrate on getting the Falcons back into the playoffs. He has already gotten a “politically correct” haircut forgoing the braids, put the alledged property of dogfighting for sale, and cancelled most of his public appearance including his camp for kids. I just hope that he will start to surround himself with the right people.
He was already correctly told by his former Virginia Tech Coach Frank Beamer at the NFL draft in April, ‘If you’re around, you’re involved,’ and then he added “People don’t care about those other people. They’re not going to write about them, but they’ll write about you”. The coach was oh too right and hopefully Vick heeds his words. Vick also will probably lose endorsements (AirTran already dumped him and I will want to see how Nike reacts), but to the public remember that Ray Lewis rehabilitated his image to the point he is back on commercials after being implicated and then being exonerated in a double-homicide, Vick can only hope to be so lucky.
THE NFL AND ROGER GOODELL
The major implications of the indictment falls on the entity that is the NFL. “We are disappointed that Michael Vick has put himself in a position where a federal grand jury has returned an indictment against him,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said. He added “The activities alleged are cruel, degrading and illegal. Michael Vick’s guilt has not yet been proven, and we believe that all concerned should allow the legal process to determine the facts.”
Recently the league has had an image problem (Thug image) that has kept Commissioner Roger Goodell on the offensive developing a reputation as a hanging judge. He suspended Titans CB Pacman Jones (2006 season), Bengals WR Chris Henry (8 games), and former Bears DT Tank Johnson (8 games) under the new and still developing NFL player-conduct policy. I would suggest that the NFL let the legal process play out, because they are now taking on a bonafide superstar and he will probably have the full support of the NFLPA and its lawyers. The other players listed have had multiple incidents and Vick has never gotten in trouble other than the airport incident (remember Marcus Vick his brother has had the legal problems).
Goodell will have to let the entire incident unfold before passing judgment on Vick the player. With the expected legal wrangling he probably will not pass judgement until some time at the end of or after the 2007 has played. If the charges are found to be true then I am sure the Commish will act swiftly and you may see several season long suspensions handed down, but Goodell needs to sit back. Goodell gave a small piece of his mind to Vick at the draft commenting “I was very clear with Michael,” and saying to him “People living in your house and people on your property [are] your responsibility. He needed to make sure he surrounded himself with people who were going to treat him properly and represent him the way he wanted to be.”
Mr. “Home Depot” Blank has a huge cleanup in aisle No. 7. Blank has always been a huge proponent of the Vick and has always been in his corner through out his career, but I think the situation is wearing on him. Blank holds all the cards when it comes to Vick, because in the NFL a player can be cut at anytime and their contracts are not guaranteed. Recently we saw the Bears cut Tank Johnson two days after he was pulled over for speeding. The Falcons would have to eat some of the signing bonus money (An estimated salary cap hit of about $6 million this year and $15 million in 2008 if they release him) from Vick’s 2004 contract extension of 10-year; $130 million that included guarantees of a then NFL-record $37 million.
I have a feeling from talking to people in the Atlanta area that Blank will have another heart to heart talk with Vick, but he will not suspend or cut him. He may offer him a leave of absence, but that would be unprecedented and Vick needs his football family. If Blank did cut Vick, it would be interesting to see if any other teams would sign him, because the NFL is a small clandestine group that has been known to outcast players. I will also be real interested to see how new coach Bobby Petrino and GM Rich McKay handle the situation, but I have a feeling that Blank calls the shots and Vick will be on the field. Besides who would they turn to Lions first round bust Joey Harrington or little used 3rd stringer DJ Shockley ??
Stay tuned for the next episode of the ” Young and the Restless” NFL-style.