Marshall: Bad Days for NFL, NBA

I was driving back from an out-of-town interview Friday when I stopped to get another $45 tank of gasoline and check my email on my cell phone.

In many years of writing columns for newspapers and the past six years writing a column for this web site, I can't remember anything I've written getting more response than what I wrote in this space Friday. Most of you who wrote disagreed with me. Some of you who wrote disagreed with me with quite a bit of anger. And that's fine. I fully expected that response, maybe just not so much of it.

What I wrote was that I believe in the presumption of innocence that is the cornerstone of our legal system and that Falcons quarterback Michael Vick should be allowed to play as long as he has not been convicted of the crimes of which he is accused.

I did not, as some said, defend Vick in any way. He has shown himself in the past not to be the kind of guy you'd want your daughter to bring home for dinner. The evidence certainly seems to indicate he will probably be convicted. But we have heard just one side of the story, and until he is convicted, he has the same rights we all have.

Despite my own opinion, my guess is that, unless he is acquitted, he has taken his last snap for the Falcons. The heat is going to be so intense that owner Arthur Blank might feel he has no choice but to suspend him or give him a leave of absence or whatever you want to call it. And I won't criticize Blank, who likely still will have to pay Vick's exorbitant salary, if he makes that decision.

If Vick did what he is accused of doing, he has evil in his soul. Dogfighting is bad enough. Killing dogs that don't fight well enough is worse. Torturing them to death for apparent pleasure is so horrendous it defies description.

Anyway, to all those who wrote, I appreciate your opinions. They're as valid as mine.

As bad as Vick's indictment was for the Falcons and the NFL, it pales beside the blow the NBA will take if the investigation of 13-year referee Tim Donaghy results in charges.

According to numerous reports, the FBI is investigating accusations that Donaghy bet on games he officiated from 2005-2007. If Donaghy, who has resigned, actually did that, it could be the biggest gambling scandal in sports history, bigger even than the Black Sox scandal of the 1920s, bigger than the Pete Rose saga. To my knowledge, no official in any sport has ever been accused of shaving points.

There are reports that Donaghy had a gambling problem and was in deep financial trouble. That doesn't make him evil. But if he did it, he did far more damage to his sport than Vick did to his.

If Vick is found guilty, it will mean the Falcons had a very bad person playing quarterback. If Donaghy is found guilty, it will call into question the very integrity of results in the NBA. It won't be fair, but every NBA official who makes a controversial call will immediately face suspicion from fans and even players.

If Vick is found guilty, it could and probably will ruin his life. It won't really affect the NFL. If Donaghy is found guilty, it will be a black eye that could take years for the NBA to overcome.

Donaghy, like Vick, is entitled to the presumption of innocence. He hasn't even been charged with a crime. If there is a difference, it is that, even had he not resigned, he could not have been allowed to officiate games until the situation is resolved. The reason is obvious. There can be no question about the integrity of officials in any sport. Vick's legal problems are personal and unrelated to football.

For an official to gamble on games he is working, to make calls to help himself win a bet, or even to be accused of it, goes to the very core of any sport.

Tuesday, when Vick was indicted, was a bad day for the NFL.

Friday, when news broke of the investigation into Donaghy's alleged gambling, was even worse for the NBA.

Vick Innoncent Until Proven Guilty Column

2007 Auburn Football Guide

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