Vick Saga Should End With Lifetime Ban

If NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wants to define his tenure as the top dog in the world's most popular sport, he has to take a no-prisoners stand against Falcons quarterback Michael Vick.

The NFL is at a crossroads. The fork in the road for the league is clearly defined thanks to Vick's pending court date after being charged with competitive dog-fighting, procuring and training pit bulls for fighting and conducting the enterprise across state lines.

According to federal investigators Vick has been involved in dog-fighting since he entered the league as a rookie in 2001.

In that time frame, he's earned $53.3 million in guaranteed money from Falcons owner Arthur Blank. That figure does not include annual salaries and bonus incentives garnered from playoff wins and Pro Bowls. I'm not sure if his contract included prize-winning Pit Bulls, but I suppose anything is possible these days.

Vick has been nothing but an embarrassment to himself, his family, the Falcons organization and the city of Atlanta. Add the NFL to that list, an organization who has spent a year trying to exorcise the individuals making headlines via the police blotter.

Because Atlanta made Vick the centerpiece of their franchise, they should file a defamation of character suit against him, asking for the return of every single dime he was paid.

But forget the Falcons. How can Vick himself take another snap in the city of Atlanta when everyone knows he willingly, and without reservation, tortured animals simply in order to pad his own pocketbook?

You'd think most people with millions of dollars in the bank wouldn't need to be involved with something like this. I guess playing in front of 80,000 people on Sundays isn't what it used to be, especially when you consider the love Atlanta gave Vick despite the fact he's a slightly above-average quarterback.

The issue at hand now is that the NFL is about to take a beating in the public eye. Animal Activists will be on a witch hunt similar to the one that led to the firing of talk show host Don Imus months ago.

Goodell is in the hot seat because Vick, though charged, is still innocent until proven guilty. The public doesn't care. In their eyes, he's already been convicted.

It matters little - to fans of the Falcons or the NFL - who else was involved in this sick abuse of torture, greed and stupidity.

What's important is that one of the NFL's most popular ambassadors has used bad judgment, and that will leave the league in a quandary as to what do with Vick prior to his plea-bargain or conviction.

Vick might have enough money to buy himself out of prison as Ray Lewis did a few years ago, but this stink could last longer than that one. In the end, Vick should be removed from the city of Atlanta.

In fact, I think Goodell should just fill out Vick's retirement papers now. I realize that would be going back on his word, as he stated he would wait to see what happens in court, but public opinion might not allow for such patience.

With NFL training camps on the verge of starting, the league will once again yield its dominance in the media wars over baseball.

Goodell won't be able to do anything but suspend Vick before his trial. Even the NFLPA knows deep down inside they'd be ruining the core of the game if they supported Vick over any league suspension.

They should protect his rights, but do so with a young NFLPA intern who only has the summer job based on nepotism.

No matter which corner of the ring you choose to sit on in this growing debate, one thing is certain - the NFL's hard-line stance on misbehaving players dictates that Vick should not be allowed in the NFL ever again.

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