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Michael Vick Doesn’t Deserve to be on an NFL Pedestal


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Michael Vick is no hero. Social media can illustrate how American’s feel about any topic, at least where our emotional temperature is at.

In November, the National Football League announced that Michael Vick would represent the NFL as a Pro Bowl team as captain at the January game. A change.org petition was instantly created, and already there are well over a few hundred thousand signatures on the way to a million signees. In addition, there are various other online petitions.

So far, no comment from the NFL on the overwhelming Vick public push back. And no comment from Vick himself.

In 2007, Vick, then an Atlanta Falcons superstar quarterback, was found guilty of one count of killing dogs and one count of promoting dog fighting, leading to a 23-month prison sentence and an indefinite suspension from the NFL  (After about 18 months, Vick was released from Federal prison in Leavenworth, Kansas to spend the final months of his sentence confined to his luxury home in Virginia).

At that time, the suspended quarterback could have been sentenced up to five years by U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson for the dog fighting charges alone, there were additional allegations including marijuana use. In court, the judge told Vick. “You need to apologize to the millions of young people who looked up to you.”

“Yes, sir,” Vick answered.

The 27-year-old player acknowledged using “poor judgment” and added, “I’m willing to deal with the consequences and accept responsibility for my actions.”

This quote comes from a 2009 book published by Kathy Strouse, a lead investigator with the Virginia Animal Control Association who helped uncover Vick’s dog fighting ring, entitled “Badd Newz: The Untold Story of the Michael Vick Dog Fighting Case.” Strouse wrote that Vick uttered the above-displayed phrase shortly after taking a polygraph examination administered by the FBI.

Considering how many dogs we know today died horrifically at Bad Newz Kennels, arguably Vick indeed did get off easy. And actually, when is said and done – for all Vick allegedly did, he only served for racketeering, albeit a felony.

Soon after being released from prison, Vick went on a “road tour” with then Humane Society of the United States CEO Wayne Pacelle. Being real about what those series of orchestrated appearances were all about: For Vick, it was about resurrecting his image and for the HSUS it was about fundraising.

From the Fox Sports site, and when he was named a commentator by Fox or to the Pro Bowl by the NFL, no mention of the dog fight conviction, as if it never happened.

It worked out for Vick, as NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell did an about face as his indefinite suspension from the NFL was ignored. Vick returned to play several more years before retiring and then becoming a commentator for FOX Sports.

Vick’s Defense

For those who suggest, Vick served his time and his life should go on – I agree. However, that doesn’t mean he should be held up on a pedestal by the NFL.

If you’re among those still not swayed, Vick’s defense for what he did was the environment which he was raised at a child.

At first, Vick repeatedly and very publicly said he had nothing to do with dogfighting until he had no choice but to admit guilt. So, if he wasn’t caught – would he still be involved today?

Here’s just a part of what we know he allegedly was guilty of:  Vick killed at least one of the defenseless and innocent dogs (dozens if not up to a 100 dogs died there) by personally slamming the dog to the ground several times before it died, breaking the dog’s back, and without veterinary care (of course) the dog suffered a torturous and painful death. Vick also used fighting dogs to do battle with pet dogs and would think it was “funny” watch his dogs injure or kill others.

And for all this, Vick, to my knowledge, has never truly offered a heartfelt apology, except what he told the judge or what he carefully said in those appearances. He never spoke about what he did but instead supported humane treatment of dogs and spoke against fighting dogs, which is certainly good.

Maybe that “no apology” stance is based on lawyer advice. Or maybe – well, simply what words are there for apologizing for these actions?

Thank You Michael Vick

I do give Vick credit for elevating the subject of dogfighting to a national prominence that it previously never received. Today, we know those willing to be so violent to defenseless dogs are likely to commit violent crimes to humans and are likely involved in drugs and/or illegal gambling or other crimes. The attention on dog fighting has informed prosecutors and judges to take dog fighting more seriously, effectively reduced dog fighting in some communities, and in other places merely pushing the “sport” further underground.

So, Vick’s crime did serve some purpose – if you call it that. But still think of the untold number of animals who undeniably suffered not only at his hands but also his associates who were involved, which Vick was well aware (though he denied any knowledge at one time).

He Did Serve His Time

Yes, he did serve his time. And I am in no way suggesting he doesn’t deserve to make a good living – but I am pretty certain he’s financially set for life with funds well beyond what most of us will ever have. Why does the NFL feel the need to elevate his status, or to celebrate Vick when there are so many other deserving ex-football players?

I am encouraged  that so many people are infuriated, demonstrating our values as a society might actually be closer than I might have thought to what Mahatma Gandi once famously said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way in which its animals are treated.”

 

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Steve Dale is a certified animal behavior specialist who has been a trusted voice in the world of pet health for over 20 years. You have likely heard him on the radio, read him in print and online, and seen him speaking at events all over the world. His contributions to advancing pet wellness have earned him many an award and recognition around the globe.

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