Frantz: NFL going to the dogs

The animals suffer broken bones, severed legs and chewed-off ears.

“It’s his dogs … if that’s what he wants to do, do it,” says Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis in his defense of Atlanta Falcons’ quarterback Michael Vick, who is under investigation for allegedly running an illegal dogfighting ring.

Their faces are crushed by powerful jaws, their eyes gouged by sharp teeth and their throats viciously and savagely torn out even as they lie prone, dehydrated, exhausted and bleeding to death.

Man’s best friend, forced into these death-fights for the amusement of the blood-thirsty sub-humans outside the pit who own, train and bet on which will suffer the more agonizing death.

“It’s his dogs … if that’s what he wants to do, do it.”

The investigators have not yet been able to secure enough proof of Vick’s involvement in the barbarism to charge him, but we do know that 66 dogs, almost all of them pit bulls, were found last month at a Virginia home owned by Vick, along with a dogfighting pit, blood soaked carpeting and equipment commonly associated with dogfighting. We also know that Portis, not even a teammate of Vick’s, seems to have no problem putting his own blood-lust on display in defending the Falcons’ QB, and that his attitude may be indicative of a much larger problem brewing below the NFL’s seemingly squeaky-clean surface.

An ESPN report that aired Sunday on “Outside the Lines” featured an undercover informant who has been involved in the dogfighting subculture for 20 years. The informant says he personally put one of his dogs up against Vick’s dog in 2000 while the then-Virginia Tech star wagered with other spectators on the fight’s outcome. More critically, the informant says Vick is not the only professional athlete deeply involved in the blood sport, estimating that at least 20 to 30 others, mostly football players, are in the dogfight game.

“He’s a pit bull fighter,” says the ESPN source of Vick. “He’s one of the ones that they call ‘the big boys’: That’s who bets a large dollar … $30,000 to $40,000 … even higher. He’s one of the heavyweights.”

Which means it’s time for the king of NFL heavyweights — Commissioner Roger Goodell — to enter this fight. When the league’s highest-paid player is being fingered by dogfighting insiders at the same time his home is being raided, and a Pro Bowl running back is speaking out in support of the quarterback, the league needs to drop the hammer — and quick.

Portis thinks the authorities are picking on Vick because of his celebrity status: “I know a lot of back roads that got a dogfight if you want to go see it. But they’re not bothering those people because [they] are not big names. I’m sure there’s some police got dogs that are fighting them, some judges got dogs.”

Goodell should drop a half-season suspension on Portis just on general principle.

Vick has shrugged off the investigation, but as the ESPN source detailed, the other dogfight heavyweights are taking this much more seriously, if only because Vick holds their fate in his hands: “Michael Vick is making large money, he’s making millions, OK? And if he has to tell on some people [to avoid prison time], I think he would tell … I don’t put nothing past him.”

If Vick does indeed roll over on other dogfighters in order to save himself, and if other players were on his list, can you imagine the ramifications to the league? Would properly outraged fans turn away from the game in disgust? Would team owners and/or league officials have the guts to suspend players, including superstars, based on the allegations, incurring the inevitable wrath of the players’ association?

The NFL has largely avoided scrutiny on other controversial issues that plague other sports, notably the steroid epidemic, but a large-scale involvement in dogfighting would do enormous damage to the league. Even if Vick avoids prison time, if he is proven to be even remotely associated with this cruel and inhumane brutality, the commissioner needs to take a firm stand and jettison him from the league. It wouldn’t be easy, and it wouldn’t be pretty. But it would be the right thing to do.

Sports personality Bob Frantz is a regular contributor to The Examiner. E-mail him at bfrantz@examiner.com.


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