NFL policy is starting to confuse me. When the Michael Vick indictment first came down, commissioner Roger Goodell wanted the "the legal process to determine the facts." Now Goodell, in a letter to Vick, writes: "It is my responsibility as commissioner of the NFL to determine whether your conduct, even if not criminal, nonetheless violated league policies."
In short, Goodell is saying there's no time for the legal process to determine the facts, so I'm going to have to do it. Vick can't go on as the quarterback of the Falcons because doing so will leave the Falcons and the league vulnerable to an ever-growing wave of public scorn.
What I don't understand is how exactly Goodell is suddenly going to figure out if Vick violated league policies. Is he going to launch his own investigation? Is he going to talk to prosecutors? If that's the plan, why hadn't they done that before? Or is he just going to read the headlines like the rest of us?
Goodell's earliest efforts at getting to the bottom of the dogfighting scandal didn't exactly work out. After the earliest reports of dogfighting at the house in Surry County, Va., Goodell interviewed Vick at the draft and seemed satisfied with the star quarterback's answers. As if a multimillionaire NFL star would admit to the commissioner if he was involved in a felony.
Between the draft in late April and the indictment on July 17, there's no indication the NFL garnered any useful intelligence on the Vick case or had the slightest clue the indictment was coming. My guess is the league followed the media's lead and assumed the feds wouldn't pursue Vick. If that's true, the all-powerful NFL has no real handle on the prosecution's case. Of course the league has to let the legal process play out. How else would it garner any established facts to punish Vick?
Sometimes we give the NFL too much credit. For all its wizadry in marketing and creating a great on-field product, its ideas of justice really just come down to which way the public is leaning. There's too much money at stake for it to be any other way.