Cruel and Unusual


Michael Vick Pleads Guilty

Michael Vick will plead guilty to conspiring to run a dog-fighting operation, which may land the Atlanta Falcons quarterback in prison and jeopardize his career in the National Football League.

The 27-year-old former No. 1 draft pick will enter his plea Aug. 27 in federal court in Richmond, Virginia, his lawyers said yesterday. The conspiracy charge carries a punishment of as much as five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.


The NFL said in a statement that it’s aware of Vick’s decision and “we totally condemn the conduct outlined in the charges, which is inconsistent with what Michael Vick previously told both our office and the Falcons.”

The league will conclude its own investigation of the case “as soon as possible” before deciding on discipline for Vick, the statement said. Commissioner Roger Goodell last month said the quarterback shouldn’t report to the Falcons’ training camp. The NFL season begins Sept. 6.

Michael Vick Pleads GuiltyI’m actually going to leave aside the legal aspects of the story for now and focus more on the disciplinary side. Michael Vick operated a dogfighting ring out of his own home for years, using the money he received from the Atlanta Falcons organization to bankroll it. How should the NFL sanction him?

As far as I’m concerned, Michael Vick should never again play the game of professional football.

Whatever the law declares, animal cruelty cannot be condoned. There’s a certain mindset that revels in wanton abuse – the ability to torture someone or something that isn’t big enough or smart enough to fight back. That’s the kind of behavior that we expect of eight-year-olds torching ants with a magnifying glass – in other words, people who don’t know better. Not college graduates earning a steady paycheck.

Nothing but the dog in meAnd when I say “animal cruelty” here, I’m not talking about testing cosmetics on animals. Torture or not, that at least has a veneer of utility to it – it’s being done for a greater end. And I’m not talking about packing veal together in a pen, either. I’m talking about killing a dog by slamming it into the ground as hard as you can. I’m talking about soaking a dog with water and then electrocuting it.

Even a ruthlessly efficient dogfighting ring would find quick ways to put down losing dogs. Clearly, this wasn’t about disposing of a business’s dross. No one drenches a dog and zaps it to death because they think that’s the cheapest way to kill it – they do it because they want to experiment. They do it because hey, it might be funny to see what happens. This is wanton cruelty.

Killing dogs is bad enough when it’s a means to an end: a brutal gambling operation. But killing dogs as an end in itself points to a different type of madness. It points to the kind of twisted soul that finds the suffering of a living creature entertaining.

A man capable of this level of cruelty should not play in the NFL. The game already claims enough victims every year by virtue of how hard it is to play. There’s no reason to make the situation worse by letting sociopaths run rampant.

Put down Michael Vick’s career. And make it quick and painless.