Wednesday, July 18, 2007

In the Wake of Vick, Goodell Faces Dilema [J. Mark English]

Tough decision lie ahead for NFL principle, er, I mean commissioner, Roger Goodell. I'm sure I'm not the first person to make that subtle title mistake. After all, Mr. Goodell is making the the staple of his early tenure, an age of heavy handed discipline. Players that are continuously on the wrong fence of the law, find themselves in the principles office, er, I mean the commissioners office.

Carl Bialik and Jason Fry of the Wall Street Journal's Daily Fix, break down what choices lies ahead for Mr. Goodell:

Several columnists urge NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to suspend Mr. Vick. "If Goodell is truly the new sheriff in town, and wants to be consistent, and at the same time let every player in the league know he plays no favorites, then how can he not take action against Vick?" New York Daily News columnist Gary Myers asks. "Because he boosts TV ratings? Because he's one of the most exciting players in the league? He can't go soft because Vick is a marquee player." Mr. Myers, however, adds that according to his unnamed sources, the commish won't suspend Mr. Vick based solely on the indictment.

MSNBC's Michael Ventre says Mr. Goodell has carved out for himself, with the approval of the players association, a justice system that doesn't require waiting for the criminal-justice system to act. And the NFL will want to distance themselves from the QB, Mr. Ventre writes: "Whatever the evidence, the coming weeks and months will feature a gusher of bad publicity involving Vick, the Atlanta Falcons and the NFL. Details about the investigation will leak. More people will come forward about the extent of the despicable pastime allegedly perpetrated on Vick's land. When the general public starts to hear gory tidbits about the savagery that was allegedly condoned by the Falcons' quarterback, he will be persona non grata in society, let alone the NFL."

But Philadelphia Daily News columnist Rich Hofmann urges patience. "For Goodell, there is no danger in acting too slowly here," Mr. Hofmann writes. "If people want to be disgusted by Vick and the allegations, it is their right. If people want to condemn the commissioner for allowing this kind of accused miscreant to play in his league, so be it. But what is the alternative, and how would you square it with anybody's sense of justice? After all, even a hanging judge waits for a conviction before ordering the rope."

Whatever the league does, the Falcons are free to cut Mr. Vick, a move MSNBC's Mike Celizic urges. But as Washington Post columnist Michael Wilbon notes, the team had been planning to build around Mr. Vick, even letting their backup go.

The whole episode reinforces for San Diego Union-Tribune columnist Nick Canepa that the Chargers made the right call in trading the No. 1 pick in the 2001 draft to the Falcons -- who picked Mr. Vick -- and instead selecting at No. 5 "a nice fellow, a tailback named LaDainian Tomlinson, who has scored 111 touchdowns and thrown for six more since that fateful day."

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