Outside Editorial: Vick needs to be suspended

Posted: Monday, July 23, 2007

The National Football League should suspend Michael Vick - and not for a short time.

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A federal grand jury indicted the Atlanta Falcons star quarterback Tuesday on multiple charges involving a dogfighting operation.

Dogfights are cruel and obnoxious enough, but the indictment also charged that Vick participated in killing dogs that failed to perform in the fighting pit.

This, the indictment alleges, occurred at a property Vick bought expressly for the purpose of staging dog fights. Despicable.

The charges carry with them potential penalties of six years in prison plus $350,000 in fines.

Ah, but the presumption of innocence, you say. Discipline must await a jury's verdict. Also, think of the perils of rushing to judgment, a la the Duke lacrosse fiasco.

First, the evidence against Vick is far stronger. Second, the NFL is not the government; the government's power to incarcerate rightly requires the highest standard of proof. The NFL, by contrast, is a high-profile employer with a conduct policy whose reputation clause Vick has violated.

The case of Vick - a superstar, not a bit player or has-been - is a good place to send an overdue deterrent message to these well-paid and much-celebrated young men. The immense rewards of their game come with high responsibility, not with immunity.

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