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NFL must make this problem go away

OK, so Michael Vick is innocent until proven guilty.

But he has been proven dangerously dumb. He has been proven incredibly reckless. He has been proven bad for NFL business.

Agreed, Michael Vick deserves a presumption of innocence.

But what happens when that is accompanied by a certainty of insouciance and an acknowledgment of negligence?

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In theory, Vick should be able to continue playing football in the wake of the federal indictment against him on charges of unimaginable animal cruelty.

But in practice, well, he shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near an Atlanta Falcons practice.

The NFL needs to immediately suspend Vick, with pay, until his legal problems are resolved.

By thus far refusing to do so, the leaders of our national pastime have shown little connection with our national conscience.

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Michael Vick needs to make like he’s running a quarterback sneak, and just disappear.

I have seen dogfighting videos, and I can’t bear to look at him. I have read details of the indictment, and I have no interest in hearing from him.

Training dogs to kill each other? And if those dogs aren’t good fighters, killing them anyway?

Hosing them down and electrocuting them? Banging their limp bodies against the ground until they are dead?

So far, Vick has been convicted of nothing.

But in the wake of these indictments, he is guilty of making a nation of sports fans want to throw up.

He is guilty of turning a nation of animal lovers against our most beloved professional sport.

He is guilty of trashing the NFL’s new image, threatening its longtime sponsorships, and feeding its worst stereotypes.

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The cost of his foolishness alone should be enough for Commissioner Roger Goodell to sentence him to the sidelines until the matter has been adjudicated.

Why has this not happened? Why is the NFL’s new law-and-order boss suddenly turning all Tagliabue on us?

Weeks after issuing a new NFL code of conduct that allows him to suspend troubled players regardless of their standing in the courts -- then using this mandate to sweep away mindless debris like Pacman Jones -- Goodell had a sudden change of bleeding heart.

Sources told the Associated Press that Goodell will take no action on Vick until the legal system has rendered its opinion. Vick apparently will be free to play while being prosecuted by a federal justice system that has better than a 90% success rate on winning convictions or pleas for felony indictments.

Is this because Vick is a quarterback and one of the faces of the league?

Or, worse, is this because Goodell is worried about acting like one of those vigilantes who rushed to judgment in the Duke lacrosse rape case?

Goodell shouldn’t be. A federal indictment is not a small-town rape charge. Vick is being chased by the federal government, not some backwater district attorney. Vick’s alleged crimes were confirmed by four witnesses, not one questionable victim.

The Duke kids deserved to lead normal lives while their case was being investigated. By legally owning a house where dogfighting occurred, Vick has lost that right.

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This isn’t about protecting the reputations of some poor college kids, it’s about protecting the integrity of an entire league.

Just listen to someone who lives in the middle of these types of messes, the managing director of crisis management for global powerhouse Ogilvy Public Relations.

“They should suspend Michael Vick until the issue is resolved,” said Albert Tortorella. “Better that one man suffer a temporary loss of dignity than millions of fans be subjected to watching an athlete who has apparently lost his human connection to wrong.”

Now listen to another man who lives there, Dr. Harry Edwards, longtime NFL consultant.

He believes Goodell is doing the right thing, but only because the new NFL code of conduct doesn’t officially support punishing relatively new troublemakers like Vick.

He believes the code should be changed, and now.

“The league should be able to step in and have some definite response to a detestable, repugnant matter like this one,” Edwards said. “I mean, you’re talking about lynching dogs.”

So why not change that code right now? The NFL does that sort of thing all the time.

Why not write a new code, call it the Michael Vick Rule, and get rid of the guy?

Sometimes, you can’t wait for justice. Sometimes you have to enforce it on your own.

And if the NFL doesn’t, then somebody else will.

Michael Vick’s training camp practices and regular-season games are conducted in full public view. They will now surely be attended by the sort of animal rights activists who throw blood on women for wearing mink coats.

You do the math.

Of course, there are entirely different set of critics who will accuse me of being a weasel for not standing up for a Michael Vick’s rights, a worm for not supporting the American ideals.

I would refer these critics to a different type of animal, but the dogs could not be reached for comment.

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Bill Plaschke can be reached at bill.plaschke@latimes.com. To read previous columns by Plaschke, go to latimes.com/plaschke.


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