No matter how nuanced his confession for involvement in dogfighting, Michael Vick got no leniency Friday from the NFL.
Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended the Atlanta Falcons quarterback indefinitely without pay, just hours after Vick filed a plea agreement that portrayed him as less involved than three co-defendants and guilty mainly of poor judgment for associating with them.
Vick acknowledged bankrolling gambling on the dogfights, but denied placing bets himself or taking any of the winnings. He admitted that dogs not worthy of the pit were killed “as a result of the collective efforts” of himself and two co-defendants.
Goodell wasn’t moved and didn’t bother to wait until Monday, when U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson will formally accept the plea and set a sentencing date likely to land Vick in prison for one to five years.
The commissioner said Vick’s admitted conduct was “not only illegal but also cruel and reprehensible.” Even if he didn’t personally place bets, Goodell said, “your actions in funding the betting and your association with illegal gambling both violate the terms of your NFL player contract and expose you to corrupting influences in derogation of one of the most fundamental responsibilities of an NFL player.”
Goodell freed the Falcons to “assert any claims or remedies” to recover $22 million of Vick’s signing bonus from the 10-year, $130 million contract he signed in 2004.
The commissioner didn’t speak to Vick but based his decision on the court filings. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said Goodell may meet with Vick in the future, and Goodell said he would review the suspension after all the legal proceedings.
“You have engaged in conduct detrimental to the welfare of the NFL and have violated the league’s personal conduct policy,” Goodell told Vick in a letter after meeting in New York with Falcons president and general manager Rich McKay.
“You are now justifiably facing consequences for the decisions you made and the conduct in which you engaged. Your career, freedom and public standing are now in the most serious jeopardy,” Goodell wrote. “I hope that you will be able to learn from this difficult experience and emerge from it better prepared to act responsibly and to make the kinds of choices that are expected of a conscientious and law abiding citizen.”