Sports World Grapples With Spate of Bad Press
MICHEL MARTIN, host:
Now sports. Major headlines in two of the country's most popular sports this week, and they were not happy ones.
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick, one of the NFL's most dominant players, was ordered not to report to training camp after his recent indictment on charges of animal cruelty. The NFL is conducting its own investigation.
And the NBA is confronting the news that one of its referees, Tim Donaghy, is under investigation for gambling and ties to organized crime - allegations that suggest he may have placed bets on games he officiated.
Tough situations. How are fans reacting? With us to talk about all these is Rose Scott, a sports commentator and blogger who joins us from time to time to talk about sports. Rose joins us from Georgia Public Broadcasting in Atlanta. Welcome back, Rose.
ROSE SCOTT: Hi. Good to be here, Michel.
MARTIN: And Rose, I have to make sure you and our listeners know that my husband, Billy Martin, who is an attorney, was recently retained by quarterback Michael Vick. So I need you to carry the ball on this one, Rose.
(Soundbite of laughter)
MARTIN: And I think we should start with one of the two major press conferences that were held yesterday. Here's a clip from Atlanta Falcons press conference. This is the owner and CEO Arthur Blank, addressing the Michael Vick situation.
Mr. ARTHUR BLANK (Owner and CEO, Atlanta Falcons): Regardless of the outcome of this case, this issue has put a spotlight in one of those things that remains wrong in this world, the notion that anyone would participate in dog fighting is incomprehensible to me. However, we do need to remember that we're dealing with allegations at this point. I want to be clear that we're not here today to pass judgment on Michael's guilt or innocence on the indictment. The courts will determine that. However, we simply cannot allow this latest event to disrupt what we're trying to achieve in the Falcons building both on the field and in the community.
MARTIN: So Rose, translate.
SCOTT: Arthur Blank says, you know what? I have taken a lot of time and money to build this franchise into something that the people of Atlanta can be proud of. No one man is above that. We will allow Michael to do what he needs to do with his legal team, but we have to move on. And be it very well, Michael Vick may never ever play in Atlanta Falcons uniform again. And that would not surprise me.
MARTIN: It seemed as though the owner was about to suspend Vick for - I guess, four games is the maximum team penalty, but that the commissioner interceded and said, you know, we want to wait until we've done our own review. Is that unusual for the NFL to forestall a punishment and to do its own process?
SCOTT: It's unusual in a sense. I think people need to understand why this happened. The Falcons were prepared to suspend Michael Vick for four games. Now, with that being said, he still will be able to attend training camp. The league does not want Michael Vick involved with the Atlanta Falcons, with their facilities, with training camp at any point right now. They - he is a distraction. Whether he's guilty or innocent, but he's a distraction. It's unfair to players. It's unfair to the team to have to deal with the questions surrounding Michael Vick with Michael Vick being at training camp.
So this also frees the Falcons up in terms of having to deal with the players association, which would probably have been prepared to file some type of grievance and it would - it's been a big mess. What this does with the league stepping in, saying, you know what? We're ordering you to stay away from camp. You need to do what you need to do to handle this. But this definitely takes a lot of pressure off the Falcons. And then they don't have to deal with the players association. You don't want Michael Vick at camp right now.
And to be honest and fair to Michael, he shouldn't be there. He really has some other things to deal with. And no matter what he says in terms of, you know, I can - I could probably have dealt with this. There's no way he could go through training camp and deal with this - these dog fighting - these federal dog fighting charges. So I think it's in the best interest for Michael and his legal team and Arthur Blank and the Falcons.
MARTIN: The legal proceedings will be taking place in Virginia, because the property in question was in southeastern Virginia. But in Atlanta, where you are and where the Falcons are based, obviously, what's the mood there?
SCOTT: It's split. You know, earlier when these allegations first came out, a lot of people said, oh, this is just people trying to get Mike in trouble. But when you read the affidavit, and it's - it's something. Michael Vick's name is mentioned 51 times. Now - and it doesn't mean that he's guilty. But to read this affidavit, and it's specific. It's down to the names of dogs, to the amount of money, to dates ranging from when Michael might have been involved in dog fighting, and even the fact that he allegedly purchased a property for a dog fighting operation. Over a dozen carcasses of dogs were found. I mean - and I think as more and more information has come out, people were split.
I interviewed people yesterday for another local NPR station and it was split down the middle. Some said, you know what? We need to get rid of him. He's a distraction. Others say, well, let's wait and let's let the legal process take its course, and then the Falcons should make a decision.
MARTIN: But - okay. All right. We need to switch topics here. Now, here's another clip I want to play. It's from a press conference that NBA commissioner David Stern had, addressing the referee betting allegations.
Mr. DAVID STERN (Commissioner, NBA): I have been involved with refereeing, and obviously been involved with the NBA for 40 years. I can tell you that this is the most serious situation and worst situation that I have ever experienced either as a fan of the NBA, a lawyer for the NBA or a commissioner of the NBA. And we take our obligation to our fans in this matter very, very seriously.
MARTIN: Those are some pretty strong words. We only have about a minute on this story, unfortunately. But very strong words from the commissioner. Do you - is this the truth? Do you think this is the most serious challenge he faced - he's been there 23 years as commissioner?
SCOTT: It's one. I think the brawl in 2004 was pretty serious, too. But, you know, if he says this is serious for him, that's fine. But I think the commissioner and I, with all due respect, has to understand if you believe that there isn't some type of betting or attempts at fixing a game in any sport, including the National Basketball Association, then he has been blinded for the decades that he spent as commissioner.
Now, obviously, he's not going to come out and say that. But let's just be honest. How long has sports and the mob and betting and gambling an all of that, how long have they been connected? Way before the 20th century. So, I mean, you know, I feel for him in terms of, you know, what he has to deal with now, but the bottom line is the NBA is going to have to, you know, implement some stronger rules and regulations and also make people accountable.
MARTIN: Well, that's an interesting story. All right, Rose, thanks so much for speaking with us.
SCOTT: Not a problem.
MARTIN: Rose Scott is a sports commentator and blogger. She joined us from Georgia Public Broadcasting in Atlanta.
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