A few months back a story began circulating around alleging that Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick may have been somehow involved with dog fighting activities going on at a property he owned in Smithfield, Virginia. For a while it was the subject of speculation and rumor, especially during the early part of the investigation where it seemed local authorities had their suspicions about these allegations, but couldn't come up with any real proof.
Then the Federal Government got involved.
Lets put aside for a moment the horrific details of the dog fighting activities that Vick is accused of being a part of -- because as deplorable as all that is, once the feds started digging up evidence about gambling conspiracies and organized crime RICO act violations this thing ramped up into a whole other level. What we're talking about now is the type of prosecution normally reserved for mobsters and white-collar criminals.

The consequences of all the charges could lead to fines nearing $300,000, seizure of any property obtained as a result of money made, and at least 5 years in prison. There may be a number of ways Vick could possibly minimize the amount of personal legal damage he takes from all this, and at least at the moment it doesn't seem like even if he did face jail time that it would really be substantial in any way (but considering the indications we have gotten about the lifestyle Vick seems to be a part of -- do you honestly think the prospect of going to the hole is anything that Vick might actually be concerned about?).

If anything, what Vick needs to be worried about more than anything else right now is the IRS. I was having a recent discussion with my brother-in-law where we both agreed that once this thing turns into a RICO trial (which so far looks like where it's headed) his entire estate could be in jeopardy. Make no mistake, the government wants to nail him on the animal fighting charges, but of there's one thing the feds do not tolerate in any shape or form; it's an illicit multi-state gaming operation.
And that's where things start to get really sticky.
Because there's no more forbidden word in professional sports than gambling.
It's as simple as this -- Once you open up the Pandora’s box that says Michael Vick may have wagered a few thousand dollars here and there on a particular dog to win or lose a match, then there's no way to close the door on the possibility that he could have made bets related to affecting the outcomes of football games he was directly involved in.

So far Vick has been implicated as the moneyman behind the operation (something that was easy for him to afford considering his $100 million plus contract) -- which means that this entire venture was in a sense funded with money Vick earned from the NFL (not to mention endorsements with EA Sports, Nike, and Coca-Cola). So if there's enough evidence to prove Vick's involvement in a conspiracy to commit a multi-state gambling operation, under the RICO act it's possible all of these companies could be linked in connection. If that wasn't enough the size and scope of the dog-fighting ring makes Vick and his co-defendants prime targets for federal and state tax law prosecution.

Make no mistake. Vick's gonna go down for something. High-priced lawyers may be able to muddy the waters enough to keep him clear of the dog fighting charges (which is bullshit, but would be par for the course when it comes to celebrity court cases)
But when it comes to tax evasion, Uncle Sam doesn't play.
Of course this doesn't even begin to address the public image slaughterhouse that Vick is about to face. Popular opinion is already splitting in the worst of ways, as this story extends beyond the sporting press and starts to draw opinions and ire from animal rights advocates, civil rights groups, the national media, pet owners, plus anyone else out there who feels disgusted by the descriptions of the treatment given animals involved in these events.
Which brings us back to the NFL.
At the end of last season newly-appointed commissioner Roger Goodell arrived on the scene with a mandate to address the huge image problem that is currently plauging the league -- namely that people are starting to think the NFL is a haven for thugs and criminals.

So Goodell puts on his bad cop outfit and lays down a hardcore conduct policy that specifically stating that any player involved in multiple incidents (criminal or otherwise) that do not exhibit conduct befitting a professional football player will face immediate fines and/or suspensions.

The reasons for this were obvious -- small numbers of players were creating continual black eyes for the rest of the league with their behavior. What's worse, the lack of diciplinary action taken by the NFL made it seem like no one really cared what kind of people players were as long as they scored points, made the highlight reels, and helped sell officially licensed jerseys.

Within weeks Cincinnati wide receiver Chris Henry and Chicago Bears defensive lineman Tank Williams were served with multi-game suspensions in reaction to their individual troubles with the law.

But then Goodell took it a step further and suspended Tennessee Titans cornerback Adam "Pac Man" Jones for the entire year in the wake of a series of incidents involving disputes with police, fights in strip clubs, and alleged incidents of domestic violence. The key here being that while there was no doubt Jones was involved in these incidents -- he has not actually been convicted of anything. All of the charges that have not been dismissed are still pending -- and yet Goodell suspended him for the entire season without pay.

Now ask yourself this question -- why in a league where convicted criminals like Chris Henry and Tank Williams garnered only partial season suspensions for their activities would Adam Jones get shut down for the entire year?

The league will tell you that Jones is a repeat offender who has violated the leagues conduct policy upwards of 10 times over the course of his career. And while that certainly is true, it's possible that the timing and harshness of Jones’s suspension had an extended purpose:
To scare players like Michael Vick straight.
That's not to say Pac Man Jones isn't an a-hole. That's not to say the crimes Adam Jones are accused of are not serious, or don't require attention.
What I'm saying is that Pac Man was made an example of.
The basic kinds of incidents Pac Man Jones found himself involved with were the kind of activities that cast a shadow over all of the questionable activities pro football players were generally considered being a part of -- driving drunk, making spectacles of themselves at strip clubs, getting into skirmishes with bouncers or bar patrons, mistreatment of spouses or family members, generally being in the wrong place at the wrong time or going out in public and acting like you can get away with literally anything you want not because you are rich, but because you're an NFL player.

Pac Man was served up on a platter for everyone else to see.
Look what we did to him -- don't think we won't do it to you.
Of course there was always the argument that the players persecuted by the league for these things weren't stars, and that the whole "cleanup" movement was more for show than anything else. But if you really think about it, if you think about some of the minor incidents Michael Vick had been involved in over the past few years (getting caught with what was thought to be drug paraphernalia at an airport, the whole "Ron Mexico" scandal, strip club incidents less severe, but similar in many ways to what Pac Man Jones were nailed for) it was clear that while the league may not have known the extent of Michael Vicks illicit activities, they were clearly aware that one of their premier stars was doing things he should not have been doing -- especially considering his position not only in the Atlanta community, but as an ambassador for the league as well.

It's not like the NFL hasn't had to deal with its share of criminals in the past. From charges of domestic violence and drug possession and sales to more major incidents like the Ray Lewis attempted murder trial, OJ Simpson's double murder trial, and most notably Carolina Panthers Wide Receiver Rae Carruth's conviction for murdering his girlfriend and her unborn child -- there have been times when the NFL has been faced with one of their players committing completely sickening acts of violence against others.

The difference being that none of the players who were ever convicted for their crimes were considered major stars. Even though he was acquitted by a jury, OJ Simpson's trial took place long after he had retired from the game. Carruth was at one time a rising star, but once the severity of the charges against him became public the league was quick to divorce themselves from him.
Which is something they simply can't do with a marquee player like Vick.
I mean let's face it, you can't just pretend a guy who was once on the cover of John Madden's videogame doesn't exist.

Simply put, Vick is the face of the Atlanta Falcons. He's their most marketed personality, their most talented player, and the guy they've based all of their coaching, personnel, and game plan strategy decisions off of for the past few years.

If they do the right thing and suspend him their season is effectively over before it began. If they stick by his side they will be handcuffing themselves to the biggest PR nightmare and ticket sale disaster the team has ever known. Even worse, if they up and fire him they'll be stuck with a huge salary cap hit that could keep them from being able to manufacture any success without him and would still be obliged to pay the guaranteed money in his contract (which he will surely use to fund his upcoming legal battle).

In other words, every time someone says the words "Michael Vick," "Federal Indictment," "Dog Fighting," "Animal cruelty," "multi-state gambling," and "thug" they will also be saying the words "Atlanta Falcons," "Arthur Blank," and "National Football League."

And then the questions will come. "How could you not have known?" or "Why didn't you do something to stop this?" Questions that honestly can't be answered. Because if you did know to any extent then doing nothing makes it look like you somehow condoned his activities, and if you claim you didn't know then you open yourselves up to critics saying you simply didn't care either way as long as he scored touchdowns.

Both the Atlanta Falcons and the NFL have publicly announced that they will not take any action until more information is known, or until the matter reaches some sort of definite resolution -- which if you ask me is an absolute pussy approach.
Simply put -- He's got to go.
I don't give a shit if a year from now the guy somehow skates on the whole thing. I don't care if somehow this all comes out to be a huge misunderstanding. Take a goddamn stand for once, and hang this fucker out to dry the exact same way he did when he took the money you gave him and invested it in all of this. If you're Arthur Blank, don’t let him report to camp. If you're Roger Goodell, freeze his contract payments, and if you're the Nike corporation -- take his name off your stupid shoe.

Let’s not forget that a few months back during the NFL draft Michael Vick sat there in a pressed grey suit, looked right into the camera and said he was committed to changing his life. That the accusations of dog fighting surrounding him were completely unfounded and that he was going to do whatever he could to repay the trust put in him by the City of Atlanta, the Atlanta Falcons organization, the National Football League.

And we all bought it. We all wanted to buy it, because he's an amazing athlete. He's fun to watch. His numbers over the last few years haven't even been that good, but regardless the things he did on the field were the sorts of things football fans love to see.

But I'm telling you right now, I'd rather suffer 50 straight years of un-athletic fat ass immobile quarterbacks standing in the pocket and getting sacked than watch one more second of this bastard on my TV.
The truth is that I feel this way because I'm angry at myself for
being too blinded by his talent and my own desire to see great
football to realize what this guy really was underneath his helmet.
Of course, there was really no way to know any of this beforehand. Because every time we saw Vick prior to this revelation he seemed a personable, enthusiastic young guy. It’s not like you’d turn on ESPN to see some reporter asking Vick what he thought his teams chances were in their upcoming game against the 49er’s only to have him answer,

"They shall die for their insolence like the dogs they are."
I mean, if you read some of the things that he’s accused of doing to these animals whether they won or lost the fights he forced them to take part in, you have to imagine that he’s some sort of devil -- a cruel inhuman beast who couldn’t possibly have anything in common with you or me.

But then you see him up there on the screen and that’s not the case. He looks just like us. Maybe in better shape, maybe in a more expensive suit -- but human nonetheless. He’s 27 years old. He went to college. When the murders happened on the campus of Virginia Tech he was one of the first to donate money to their relief fund.
And perhaps that’s what hurts the most of all about this story.
Because in an instant this person we connected with the idea of entertainment, with the excitement and escapism that so many of us equate with sports, someone we sympathized with when he lost and cheered for when he won turned out to be a horrible, hate-filled monster.

And in that moment where you realize that the monsters of this world can hide in plain sight, it also becomes clear that they can exist almost anywhere. That they mistreat their loved ones, that they hijack planes and passengers to use as weapons in a political wars, that they unleash their personal rage on classmates and officials at their college campuses with lethal weapons.
And that by not seeing them for what they are when they look you in
the eye, in your own little way you have unwittingly given them power.
[Listening to:    Mindless Self Indulgence"Bullshit" ]