7-22-07 -- Roger Goodell met with animal welfare officials inside NFL headquarters Friday and about 50 people demonstrated outside, urging the NFL commissioner to suspend Michael Vick following his indictment on dogfighting charges.
"Sack Vick!" chanted the demonstrators, organized by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, as they walked peacefully in front of the Park Avenue building. Many held dogs who had the "Sack Vick" signs on their backs and one woman brought a pit bull, the breed killed in the dogfighting operation the Atlanta quarterback is accused of sponsoring.
Goodell met with officials from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
The leaders of the demonstration focused on Goodell's one-year suspension of Tennessee's Adam "Pacman" Jones under the NFL's personal conduct policy, although Jones has not been convicted of any crime.
"We think they should do the same with Michael Vick," said Dan Shannon, an assistant director of campaigns for PETA. "We don't think their 'wait and see' attitude goes far enough. If they suspended Pacman Jones, they can suspend Vick."
After the Vick was indicted Tuesday, the NFL said it would monitor legal developments in the case. Vick is scheduled to be arraigned Thursday in federal court in Richmond, Va.
On Friday, though, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said:
"We agree with them that dogfighting is cruel, degrading and illegal. The alleged activities are very disturbing and we are extremely disappointed Michael Vick has put himself in this position.
"We are having extensive dialogue with numerous groups and individuals, including the ASPCA, and are reviewing all of our options to deal with this as quickly as possible."
Sherry Ramsey, a staff attorney for the Humane Society of the United States, said she was disappointed in the league's stance.
"There is a precedent in the Jones suspension," she said.
Ramsey said her organization wrote to the NFL in May, offering to work with the league to help educate players about dogfighting. She said it did not receive a reply.
However, two letters written June 21 by the NFL to the Humane Society, and provided to The Associated Press by the league, said warnings on animal fighting and animal cruelty are now being included in the annual briefings by the league security staff to players. Those briefings will take place at all 32 training camps this summer.
"We are in total agreement that there is no place for animal cruelty and illegal animal fighting and take very seriously the allegations of dog fighting against Michael Vick," Peter Abitante, Goodell's personal assistant, wrote nearly a month before Vick's indictment.
"We certainly do not condone this activity and will not tolerate cruelty or mistreatment of animals. If Mr. Vick or anyone associated with the NFL is found to have violated state or federal law, the commissioner has stated publicly that he will impose significant discipline under our personal conduct policy."
Earlier this year, the NFL began working with the ASPCA on programs and public service announcements to educate players and the public on the importance of caring properly for animals.
In Washington, Sen. John Kerry said he would introduce legislation aimed at eliminating dogfighting and sent a letter to Goodell asking him to immediately suspend Vick.