Mike Vick, who served time in jail for running an illegal dog fighting operation and torturing, maiming and killing dogs, had to cancel his book tour because of reported death threats against him.
While violence should never be encouraged against Vick or anyone else at any book stores--and the death threats were obviously extreme--the strong outpouring of emotions against Vick's book tour reveals that many Americans are not blinded by sports accomplishments and still feel extremely passionate about what Vick purposely did to dogs for years before getting caught.
Vick’s long-term participation and front-line role in a gruesome dog fighting operation has been absolved by most sports fans and by seemingly every NFL player, coach, broadcaster, mascot, vendor, and parking attendant. What a sad commentary.
But Vick did not just plunk a few bucks down and watch a couple of pit bulls wrestle. He personally murdered multiple animals. He hanged dogs, drowned dogs, electrocuted dogs. On at least one occasion when he electrocuted a dog, he wet the canine down first, just to make sure the dog was zapped with plenty of power. Vick and his crew removed the teeth from female dogs with pliers to prevent them from snapping at male dogs who were forced to impregnate them again and again on the so-called "rape machine".
According to legal documents, Vick also slammed one dog’s skull into the ground until the victim took one last breath. People don't talk about that anymore. They're too busy talking about how he may fit in with Chip Kelly's jazzy philosophy. They don't talk about the dogs who survived Vick’s dog ring that continue to shake on a daily basis and live in fear. They're too busy talking about the shake-and-bake moves Vick may be able to display while dodging tacklers next season.
The NFL is a union shop. Players have always stood by one another. Drug charges, assault accusations, and suspensions of any kind are always appealed with much solidarity. The NFLPA is up there with teachers unions when it comes to power. So, it is not that much of a surprise that the players throughout this league have been very pro-Vick since day one. The robust, hearty, vocal nature of the support is what’s off-putting.
People can use the tired line that Vick "paid his debt to society and now deserves a second chance." That’s fine. It’s the onslaught of celebration that makes many people, albeit very quietly, cringe. Some players don't say anything on the subject. Jason Taylor made a vague reference to his distaste for what Vick did through an ASPCA ad. Other than that it’s been all pro-Vick, all the time.
Democrats love him. Republicans love him. Blacks, whites, men, women, fat, skinny, short, tall. Pro-Vick. LeBron James once tweeted, "Michael Vick for President." Jordan loves him. Ditka thinks he’s good for the game. Wow.
The verbiage is probably the most troublesome part of all of this. You've heard it all by now. You know, the "mistake" he made. A mistake is when you leave the milk out overnight. Not when you purposely kill a bait dog and laugh.
I'm also amazed at this golly gee willikers attitude over how he’s played on the field after he murdered so many dogs. Why does one have anything to do with the other? If a world-class juggler raped children and then got out of prison, he'd still be able to juggle. If a master painter embezzled millions of dollars, then served his time in the clink, he'd still be able to produce art after he was freed. I'm sure Martha Stewart’s penchant for folding napkins into birds didn't suffer any after her time away. Vick played football at a high level before he murdered animals and went to prison. Of course he can still play.
Nowadays, people don't even talk about what Vick did. Those of us who beat the drum are now the pariahs in sports circles. Back when those on board the Vick love train did still engage us, their arguments were flawed at best. They'd say convoluted things like Donte Stallworth and Leonard Little killed people, Vick just killed dogs. I say, while Stallworth and Little should both be locked up for life, neither intentionally got in their cars and sought to run someone down. They did claim lives because they were stupid enough to drive drunk. They did not, however, have malicious intent. Vick purposely killed dogs for years. They talked about Ben Roethlisberger and his disgusting display against a woman in a well-guarded bathroom. They're right that Roethlisberger’s actions are as low as one can go. They're wrong to think Vick isn't right there with him.
The real brainiacs would say things like "dog fighting is a southern tradition," or a "cultural thing." You know what else happened a lot down south, and regrettably still does to this day? Cross burnings. Klan meetings. Just because it’s happened for years somewhere doesn't make it okay. It doesn't make the person responsible for it free of blame because of his surroundings. Personal responsibility must be considered. Vick displayed none.
Before being fired, Andy Reid was the biggest, literally and figuratively, cheerleader for Vick. He even referred to his quarterback as "kid" and "tough cookie." Cute names masking the real man. Fans and reporters have thrown Donovan McNabb under the bus, saying Vick is already a better leader than McNabb, etc. Even though the team appeared in championship game after championship game with #5 in charge. They praise Vick, yet vilify athletes like Terrell Owens, Randy Moss, Chad Ochocinco, Milton Bradley, and Roger Clemens, even though they've never hurt anyone. The frustrating part about all of this is all these players seemingly love Vick too. Everyone seems to.
Mike Vick did indeed serve his time to society and has every right to go back to work. I agree wholeheartedly. There’s nothing more American than that. That doesn't mean the Eagles had to hire him, that doesn't mean people have to root for him, and it certainly doesn't mean that he should be celebrated as if he beat cancer or overcame a family tragedy. That’s what it seems like though. The way Vick is portrayed, he is the comeback kid. He got through his problems to succeed on the athletic field. Those problems however were self-inflicted and dogs were brutally killed. Darryl Strawberry and Josh Hamilton overcame substance abuse. While their addictions surely caused distress to friends and family members, no one was intentionally hurt. They really hurt themselves. Their efforts toward redemption are noble. Eric Davis beat cancer. Sam Mills gave it his all to try to do the same. Noble. Vick murdered dogs and got caught. He now speaks to kids about dog fighting because he has to or else. He now on the surface stays out of public trouble because he has to. Noble? Not so much. Just a guy who got caught and now doesn't want to be booted out of the NFL and booted back into jail.
On Philadelphia sports radio, the hosts and a reporter were talking Eagles and of course it turned into an "I Love Mike Vick" rally. The reporter waxed poetic about how Vick has a sign in his locker that reads, "Walk the Talk." The host responded in kind saying something along the lines of, "Wow, that really shows what a leader he is."
So, let me get this straight. Murder dogs for years. Finally get caught. Then--and only then--speak about your "mistake" to classrooms, hang up a cute little sign, and be lauded by Fantasy Football geeks everywhere as the greatest quarterback ever, on and off the field. Weird. Sad.
I know there are plenty of people who loathe what Vick did. The Barnes & Noble cancellation proves that. Not all are buying this "football success equals crimes aren't as bad anymore" formula. The problem is, most of the football world is removed from this. A lot of the cerebral folks with minds, hearts, and souls are not into sports and they know that who wins football games on Sundays isn't a matter of life and death. The sports-minded among us who speak out against Vick also miss the point. The few who bother to say anything talk about how Vick "threw away his career" and "lost money" and "screwed up." Not that he bashed the skulls of innocent dogs.
I remember awhile back when during another Vick kissy-kiss radio fest, some hosts did a segment about who they'd like to see thrown in the Spectrum, the old home of the Flyers and 76ers before it was demolished. They mentioned Andre Iguodala, Justin Bieber, then Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, and everyone who votes for Dancing With The Stars. Then they came up with this gem. They said anyone who wants to argue about Vick and his dog fighting past should be thrown into this fantasy death sentence as well. They said they were sick and tired of hearing about it. Vick did his time. It’s over. No it’s not.
Imagine if civil rights leaders didn't say a word when blacks were told they had to drink out of separate fountains and ride only in the backs of buses. What if women kept quiet when they were told they couldn't vote? Those of us who care about animals and a civilized society as a whole will not give it a rest. We will continue to talk about the gory details of what this man purposely did to innocent dogs for no reason. It’s easy to forget when you sweep things under the rug. Don't fall to the peer pressure or the "they're just dogs" mentality. You know it’s wrong. Speak out. He can play. Great. So what? Touchdowns don't erase sick, sociopath behavior.
He’s been back in the league for years now and when his stats warrant it, he should be treated fairly in the press. The sooner this over-the-top positive attitude toward him stops, however, the better. We have had pro athletes come back from true tragedy like murdered family members and battles with leukemia. Paul Pierce was stabbed over and over again, only to persevere and return to win a world title. We don't talk about any of that however. After all, they aren't dog killers.