When the lockout ended, times were supposed to get better for the NFL’s employees at 280 Park Ave. in Manhattan. But since the launch of the new league year in early August, it’s been a tough fortnight for many of the league’s suits and decision-makers.
The new kickoff format has come under heavy scrutiny, they botched the whole Terrelle Pryor supplemental draft ordeal and now they’re in hot water as a result of controversial comments made by their most infamous player.
In the September edition of GQ, Michael Vick delivers a heavyweight-style blow to the league without even realizing how controversial his quoted/paraphrased words would be. In fact, unless he was deliberately burying the lead, I’m not sure the writer, Will Leitch, fully understood how messed up the following claim from Vick was:
“I think I can say this now, because it’s not going to hurt anybody’s feelings, and it’s the truth,” Vick tells me a few weeks after the commencement ceremony. “I didn’t want to come to Philadelphia. Being the third-team quarterback is nothing to smile about. Cincinnati and Buffalo were better options.” Those two teams wanted him and would’ve allowed him to start, but after meeting with commissioner Roger Goodell and other reps from the NFL, Vick was convinced—and granted league approval—to sign with Philly. “And I commend and thank them, because they put me in the right situation.”
Yeah, yeah, you didn’t want to come to Philly. That’s sort of interesting, maybe newsworthy. Not mind-blowing. But did you seriously tell Leitch that the commissioner urged you to sign with one team over others? And if so, do you not understand the gravity of such a declaration?
This is the kind of thing that could jeopardize the integrity of the entire league. And that’s why both the NFL and Vick have released statements to cover their respective asses.
From NFL spokesman Greg Aiello (via ProFootballTalk):
“Michael Vick’s decision on where to play to put himself in the best position to succeed was entirely his own. Commissioner Goodell obviously met and spoke to Michael and his representatives as part of his decision on whether to reinstate Michael and on what terms. But the Commissioner would never steer players to or away from particular teams and did not do so in this case.”
“I felt it was necessary to put out a statement today clarifying the article in GQ Magazine. I did speak with many people, but the decision to sign in Philadelphia was based on my discussions with my agent, my family and with Coach Reid. And after those discussions, it became clear to me that this was the place I wanted to play and resume my NFL career. The Commissioner never told me to sign or not sign with particular teams. Again, I want to make it perfectly clear that this was a decision I made and, as I have said numerous times before, I’m very happy with the way it has worked out for me and my family.”
One of several things happened here:
1) Not thinking about the consequences, Vick stretched the truth with Leitch in order to make his story more compelling.
2) Leitch improperly paraphrased Vick. The fact that he met with the commissioner and “was convinced” to join the Eagles doesn’t necessarily mean the two events were connected.
3) Goodell and “other reps” truly did convince Vick to join the Eagles instead of the Bills or Bengals and now everyone is trying to avoid a PR nightmare.
I find it nearly impossible to believe that Goodell would be stupid enough to steer a player in any direction. The guy started his career in public relations and would’ve been fully aware of the repercussions if a player were to blab about such an incident.
So there’s a very good chance that either scenario No. 1 or No. 2 caused this mess. And if that’s the case, it’s sort of a no harm, no foul situation. But a denial from the league office and a clarification from Vick won’t be enough to put this story to sleep. Bills and Bengals fans will want confirmation that nothing shady was happening.
They’re already pissed.
“It’s like another slap in the face to the Buffalo Bills. I’m upset about it. I want to know what the whole idea was about wanting him to go to Philadelphia and not Buffalo or Cincinnati.”, Bills legend Thurman Thomas told WGR 550 in Buffalo. “I think Mr. Wilson needs to give the commissioner a call and see what happened.”
“It was wrong, I think there needs to be an investigation.”
Thomas is right. To be safe, there absolutely should be an investigation. And it should start with Leitch publishing the entire transcript of his interviews with Vick.