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Abyssina, Mike
By Ed Driscoll · August 24, 2007 03:47 PM · Run To Daylight

ESPN reports that the NFL has announced that they're suspending Michael Vick "indefinitely":

The NFL has suspended Falcons quarterback Michael Vick indefinitely without pay following his admission of guilt in a dogfighting scheme.

On Friday, Vick filed his plea agreement in federal court admitting to conspiracy in a dogfighting ring and agreeing that the enterprise included killing pit bulls and gambling. He denied making side bets on the fights, but admitted to bankrolling them.

Friday afternoon, a letter to Vick from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said, in part:

"Your admitted conduct was not only illegal, but also cruel and reprehensible" and regardless whether he personally placed bets, "your actions in funding the betting and your association with illegal gambling both violate the terms of your NFL player contract and expose you to corrupting influences in derogation of one of the most fundamental responsibilities of an NFL player."

Goodell freed the Falcons to "assert any claims or remedies" to recover $22 million of Vick's signing bonus from the 10-year, $130 million contract he signed in 2004.

A few days ago, Yahoo Sports' Dan Wetzel described Vick's recent travails as "Unique talent, inexplicable fall":
We've grown callous to the self-destructing rich and famous of sports and entertainment, be it from drugs or drink, divorce or gambling, even murder and mayhem.

But dogfighting? Did Michael Vick really blow it all – a $130 million contract and multiple endorsement deals – to pursue this barbaric hobby in the woods of Virginia?

"People are going to start looking at me with stupidity," Vick told ESPN during the NFL draft, when he was still declaring his innocence. "That's stupid."

It's beyond stupid. The NFL employs players who have been convicted of spouse abuse, involuntary manslaughter due to drunken driving and obstruction of justice in a homicide investigation, to name a few. It's not called the National Felon League for nothing.

In Hollywood, we've come to treat troubled actors and actresses as theater. In Washington, D.C., political sex and bribe scandals are met with a yawn.

Yet this one shocked America, in part because of the viciousness of the crime and in part because of its senselessness.

Vick isn't some talentless starlet or a hack politician. He was a true star with true ability, and in his prime at 27, set up to be a top player in America's top sport.

The key phrase there is "set up"; not in the sense of being framed, but being coddled by the NFL. For several months, Debbie Schlussel has noted that the NFL protected Vick's image on numerous occasions, including banning sales of Falcons' jerseys bearing his number and his two alter-egos, "Ron Mexico" and "Ookie", both infamous among NFL fans. The league magically caused a sure drug-related arrest at Miami International Airport to vanish. This may or may not be tied in with the NFL itself, but it's also worth noting that the senior Jim Mora lost his radio show after agreeing with a guest that his son's most mercurial player was a "coach killer", an otherwise fairly common phrase amongst sports fans.

Every year, the NFL invites veteran players to address rooms full of newly drafted rookies on the exponentially increased public exposure and off-the-field hazards associated with playing America's most-watched professional sport. And every year, by protecting players such as Vick, the NFL nullifies its own message. Perhaps if they had intervened earlier with Vick, his career wouldn’t have been put on indefinite hold with such a nuclear flameout.

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