There has been a lot of talk of forgiving and forgetting this week. News stories and social media posts are re-hashing football player, Michael Vick’s “involvement” in a scandal that resulted in a 23 month prison sentence (he served 18 months) and an “indefinite suspension”. Last Tuesday Mr. Vick was signed again, this time as the backup quarterback for the Pittsburg Steelers.
Not to heap more fuel onto an already blazing fire, but Michael Vick, Pro NFL Quarterback was just a little more than “involved” in the scandal. Michael Vick funded, managed, housed, participated in and was an eager spectator of numerous, unthinkable acts of animal cruelty, and there are plenty of people and organizations that are neither satisfied with his apologies, nor convinced of his reformation.
An astounding number of football fans have decided to give him a second chance.
An equally astounding number of fans have not.
Animal rights activists and animal lovers are a much harder to sell on the idea of forgiveness. A recent Facebook post by a young woman who is an activist in defense of Pit Bulls has been shared nearly 3,000 times. She too asks the question: “Does Michael Vick deserve a second chance?”
NFL fans are no strangers to scandal. It seems to rip through at least a few franchises every year.
The sad fact that fans of the National Football League must face is that many of their heroes on the field are also nasty-wasty criminals. Ray Rice drags his girlfriend out of an elevator, Plaxico Burress fires a handgun in a nightclub, Ben Rothesburger faces allegations of sexually assaulting a girl in a bathroom.
Drugs, violence, abuse, sexual assault, the list is long and depressing but that’s just the way it is. Michael Vick is just another scandal.
Now, some will say, “Let the boys play the game!”
But Michael Vick poses a bigger problem. The criminal bar has been raised by his heinous deeds and the gruesome accounts of his crimes are readily available, in fact, after publishing an article about the Vick scandal in Sports Illustrated, a writer named Jim Gorant went one further and published an entire book that details the horrific lives of Mr. Vick’s dogs and the heart wrenching efforts to save the animals that were not too insane with violence or damaged beyond repair. The book is a tough read:
“As the little red dog lay on the ground, fighting for air, Quanis Phillips grabbed its front legs and Michael Vick grabbed its back legs. They swung the dog over their head like a jump rope then slammed it to the ground. The first impact didn’t kill it. So, Phillips and Vick slammed it again. The two men kept at it, alternating back and forth, pounding the creature against the ground until, at last, the little red dog was dead.” -The Lost Dogs, by Jim Gorant.
Others defend his actions with statements like…
“But Michael Vick has apologized.”
“But Michael Vick has even found religion while he was in prison for a year-and-a-half.”
So, we can forgive and forget, right?
Unfortunately it’s not as easy to forgive, if you know what he has done.
Michael Vick is not a victim of some rabid, politically correct, news frenzy. He is a plea-bargained-time-served-seriously-bad-guy. He and a few of his hideous friends created a lucrative, small business venture which the criminals playfully named, “Bad Newz Kennels”. Under Mr. Vick’s supervision, Pit Bull dogs were bred, raised, tortured, maimed, drowned, electrocuted, strangled, beaten, and starved… OR, if they were lucky, they were made to fight to the death for the entertainment of lots of other criminals and seriously bad men. It was only due to a miscellaneous drug bust and subsequent investigation that Bad Newz Kennals, was discovered.
After wading through the pictures of the bodies and the broken, starved and abused animals on his property, after Michael Vick’s polygraphed lies, and after his indignant quote outside the courtroom; “Yeah, fine, I killed the dogs. I hung them. I slammed them. I killed all of them. I lost fucking millions, all over some fu*king dogs.” After you heap all of these things on top of one another, it becomes an unbelievably grizzly pile of inhumanity. How can anyone forgive or forget?
Still, there are plenty of people who don’t seem to have a problem with the idea of forgiving Vick.
Fans in favor of Vick say he’s paid his debt to society, and are willing to let him go to work. It is difficult, however, for animal lovers to look at Michael Vick without seeing a monster. It’s frightening for some of us to imagine that people feel they need this football player so much that they can accept him as an athlete and just ignore his past actions and the dogs he tortured and killed. Maybe it’s just too hard to look at those pictures so many of us can’t turn away from. That’s the interesting thing that reveals itself here regarding football fans and franchise owners:
The ability to disconnect.
Michael Vick, in his heartfelt apology mentions his fans, his crime, his bad decisions, the responsibility he takes for his actions and his judgment, but never mentions the victims. He doesn’t talk about the lives he ruined. Where is the remorse?
Fans and pundits give opinions about the controversy:
why protestMichael Vick? He paid his price to society, now working. That’s how system works. protest other athletes NOT punished 4 crimes
— Al Bernstein (@AlBernstein) August 26, 2015
After all, couldn’t one argue that 18 months might not be enough punishment for the kinds of things Michael Vick did? Just because he “paid”, does that mean he gets to share in the fame-and-financial-fruits of the public eye? Being a football player for the NFL is not just a job. I guarantee that when a football player is signed, he is issued a handbook at least, if not an affidavit agreeing that he is a representative of that organization and, as such, is responsible for behaving a certain way. I am sure the handbook doesn’t say that you can torture and kill animals as long as you go to jail for 18 months and then declare bankruptcy.
“But he’s such a good football player.”
There are a lot of people who simply don’t believe that Michael Vick’s judgment is “all better now”. In 2013, he was seen taking his new dog “Angel” in to a Petsmart for obedience lessons.
Wait. What? New dog?
The dog is a Belgian Malinois and it is usually recommended that they be trained by a professional, because, much like Pit Bulls or other working dogs, Malinois are extremely high in energy and intelligence and are widely used for protection. The U.S. Secret Service uses the Malinois dogs to guard the grounds of the White House. They are smaller than German Shepherds or Labs, and can be picked up by their handlers, but still strong and fierce and able to attack an enemy. This is a dog you take to Petsmart for training?
Vick admitted that he got the dog for his family, yet it is widely known that these dogs can become a problem very quickly for folks unaccustomed to proper dog training, or unaware that the dog needs a job to do. Apparently Vick and his family no longer own Angel.
Let’s at least agree that Michael Vick’s judgment is in question about not only the breed but also the political advisability of owning any animal after what he has done. Let’s at least agree that no matter how much religion he’s found, he is still responsible for sending quite a few Pit Bulls up to heaven with his own, ghoulish hands, so we can probably assume that God doesn’t want him to have a dog!
Signing Michael Vick may end up being pretty “Bad Newz” for the Steelers franchise, in any case. Many fans have decided to boycott Michael Vick’s entire football career. Professional animal rights organizations are speaking out against the NFL’s choice of allowing Michael Vick back into the club. The Shelter and Wildlife Center has canceled an event that was to be held at Heinz Field saying of the Steelers franchise: “[Vick] is a football player in their eyes. In our eyes, he is an animal abuser.”
From Steelers fans, over 33,000 strong in a petition protesting the signing: “Michael Vick is a convicted felon and no-class piece of crap. He is also a terrible QB which is why he has no team. Let’s united as Steeler fans – as NFL fans – and stop him from playing on our team! Steelers fans united!!”
So, whether Vick sees the field or not, let’s at least agree that you really have to disconnect his athletic career from his career as a dogfight promoter in order to justify cheering for him in any way. If Michael Vick had dispatched as many human lives as he has Pit Bulls, he would be languishing in solitary, instead, he’s under the lights and wearing a jersey for a national sports organization. He’s doing things on that football field that little boys all over America can only dream about while the emotional nightmare continues for so many of the dogs he tortured.
Do you think Michael Vick deserves a second chance?
Note from the editor: I did not want to include images that would be too disturbing or upsetting in this article but for those of you want to see images of what Michael Vick did to these dogs, you can CLICK HERE to read the Facebook post that inspired this article and the images that were posted with it.