Philly columnist in favor of another chance for Vick

Michael Vick speaks to students

Dear Ms. Fox,

You say you don’t understand why people are “dissecting every word Michael Vick says.” I will try to clarify, because I can’t understand why I listen, and never hear what ought to be said.

Granted, I only saw a minute and 47 seconds of Vick’s recent 10-minute talk to a group of high school freshmen, and I was not given the full transcript of his remarks. But what I read and heard him say was this: Dog fighting ruined 18 months of his life; it kept him from his family and football and freedom.

Maybe at some point he did talk about why it was wrong. That is to say, not because of what he – Michael Vick – suffered, but because of what the torture and agony animals in his care endured. And that’s the crux of it. That’s what I’m waiting to hear: Animal cruelty isn’t wrong because one can get caught and go to prison, losing millions of dollars in the process. It’s wrong because inflicting extreme mental and physical pain on other individuals is cruel and sick.

When you say this, Ms. Fox, I agree:

Vick has learned his lesson, knows now that fighting dogs is wrong and won’t do it again. If the reason he won’t is because he’s afraid of losing what he has, well, so be it. Isn’t the goal to save dogs, not hurt them?

Sure, he learned a lesson, but it’s not the lesson that needed learning–which is that dog fighting (and animal cruelty) is abhorrent. What Vick learned is that participating in such can inconvenience a guy in the worst way. There’s no indication he grasps the larger issue: It’s not about squandering lucrative contracts, it’s about acting humanely.

And yes, the goal is to save dogs, and maybe the best way to deter kids from going down that dark path is to explain how their lives could be affected. I still think the case is more compelling if they know why such actions are unacceptable. People who feel good about themselves don’t derive pleasure from seeing other individuals suffer.

So why you ask, after serving his time, does Vick continued to be “crucified”? Ms. Fox, here are the reasons: Because going to prison is not redemption. Vick didn’t volunteer to spend 18 months thinking about his actions, he was forced to. The fact is, being told to say you’re sorry is much less convincing than attempting to make amends of you’re own volition. And because when a second chance means returning to fame and wealth and glory, we expect to see some genuine remorse. And finally, because until Vick – not his PR team or his advisors or his parole officer – decides to be part of the solution, it is impossible to forgive him.

And if he’s unable to eloquently articulate his remorse, that’s OK, too, as long as he doesn’t take another dog’s life… That’s where Vick seems to be at the moment. He’s such a polarizing figure, some will crucify him for that, too. But to me that’s enough.

I disagree with your statement, Ms. Fox. Simply not taking another dog’s life is not enough in this case. In order for me to find any redemption in Michael Vick, he must actively do good. He must, as he’s vowed, save more animals than he’s maimed. And even then, it won’t be ok, but it will be progress.

Clearly, “enough” to you is not enough to me. Just as those who fight racism, homophobia, and misogyny continue to talk about justice and compassion, I will continue to talk about animal cruelty. Until there’s no more work to be done.


Leslie Smith

Senior Editor, Dogtime