Oconee, you're right. But the NFL is not a regular employer. When the minimum salary in the NFL became higher than what 99.5% of the rest of America makes, it ceased being a "regular" company. Normal companies aren't consistently in "lay off" mode where they are cutting salary annually to anybody that wasn't performing at peak performance. If a company is constantly laying people off or making "efficiency cutbacks" would people say that company is particularly healthy.
Trying to fit the NFL to the normal standards of business in America won't work.
As for Hornung and Karras, unless I'm mistaken, both players admitted their "guilt" before any suspension was meted out. Also Hornung and Karras were BETTING on Football! So again, the precedent has not been set.
Now, if NFL security has done their own in-depth investigation, which doesn't seem like Cole's report indicates such occurred, but found sufficient evidence to indicate that Vick indeed was involved in illegal gambling, then I can understand their desire to suspend him. And I suspect as much will be made known to the public. But if they are simply basing this off that Vick is accused of gambling by federal authorities, then again this comes off more as a witch hunt, looking for anything that they can get rid of Vick for.
And denying that this is a witch hunt shows short-sightedness. The league has clearly shown their predisposed feelings of getting rid of Vick. Plenty of examples:
1) Banning the sale of his jersey. This is an unprecedented move. No jersey has ever been removed from sale, even from non-active players. I don't think it was impossible to buy a Rae Carruth jersey even after his conviction.
2) Not allowing ESPN to showcase the QB Challenge simply because Vick was in attendance.
3) An unprecedented indefinite leave of absence where they want to get Vick out of sight, and hopefully out of mind.
These are just 3 prime examples, and I'm sure others can think of more. Am I saying it's some vast conspiracy started by Goodell & Upshaw or whomever to get rid of Vick? No. Vick made his own bed, and now Goodell & Co. are just trying to sneak it downstairs in the middle of the night and take it down to the landfill that is 3 counties over.
They are effectively trying to erase his memory from the league, and have been doing so before meting out any punishment. Don't let your shared desire to see Vick punish blind you to the truth.
You are correct to a point. This is not a "normal" business, but it is a business that lives by its labor agreement. It is an ENTERTAINMENT business. It is all about image. The NFL must protect its image to produce a marketable product. There are the same types of conduct clauses in entertainment industry - it is up to the employer to enforce them or not. Don't see many crying that Hertz dropped OJ prior to his day in court....
This is not about the hard core fans, but the casual fans - the ones that the NFL is trying to convert into hard core fans. It is about trying not to be the NBA and MLB with their shrinking audiences. It is about the next TV contract.
This is not a "witch hunt" (and whatever that means now - in the truest sense, it never was, because dog fighting is an actual crime and witches (outside several ex-girlfriends) never existed), it is about protecting the business and about future revenues. Yes, they are treating Vick different from other situations because it IS different from other situations. Vick is one of the NFL superstars and marketing phenoms. When they flame out, it is a lot harder to mitigate the damage. Sure Rae Carruth was a 1st round pick (I believe), but was mediocre and not the face of the franchise, let alone the league. I doubt that anyone would have even considered stopping sales of his uniform, because they probably were being bought anyway.
The cold hard reality of the world is that people do get treated differently depending on their status. There is some truth the old saying that "the bigger they are, the harder they fall." If Peyton Manning had done the exact same thing, the mess would be even bigger. Don't discount the human element that the Commish may feel that Vick lied to him.
The NFL has a image problem developing and harsh, quick action, may be what is needed. That or the execution of the entire Bengals roster.