Like many professional athletes’ legal fumbles, a 2007 scandal gave Michael Vick a rehabilitation story that disillusioned fans to what actually led to his so-called triumphant return to the field. To some, his quarterback status apparently shines past his tendency to abuse animals.
Michael Vick is currently the only NFL player to accept two $100 million contracts — first with the Atlanta Falcons and currently with the Philadelphia Eagles– with a two year prison sentence in between offers. Vick’s involvement in a six year long dog fighting ring left him with a reputation, but rewarded him with book deals and the perk of extra publicity.
Vick pleaded guilty to one charge of “conspiracy to travel in interstate commerce in aid of unlawful activities and to sponsor a dog in an animal fighting venture” after fighting dogs for six years, essentially ending a successful run in competitive animal torture concurrently with his NFL suspension. The dog fighting ring reportedly involved over 50 dogs who were forced to attack opponent pups, but only if they survived to make it to the ring. If they failed to perform up to standard, Vick admitted to having shot, electrocuted, burned, or otherwise maimed them, watching on as they died.
Since sentencing, Vick has called his behavior “immature” during press conferences. It seems a new clothing line is just one more step toward redeeming his image after his Bad Newz kennel days. But is Vick really rehabilitated or just covering up his true nature to get back in fans’ good graces? The thirst for a win has clearly not left him as far as his own career goes, and there was a glaring lack of counseling to address the root causes of his involvement in a dog fighting ring in the first place. The execution of his punishment seems overly soft, at best.
The good news that came from the sentence was that many of Vick’s Bad Newz kennel dogs — called Vicktory dogs by the media — found loving homes after a bit of retraining. Some even became therapy dogs who warmed the hearts of many cancer patients, in addition to bolstering the shaky reputation of pit bulls and shedding light on the dark world of dog fighting. That’s the kind of publicity that seems warranted from this ordeal.
But the bad news is that plenty of kids looking for professional athletes as role models see Vick as a source of inspiration. No amount of redemption can erase the way Vick voluntarily participated in countless acts of animal cruelty, and separating those choices from his football performance is impossible. When a child wears a shirt with Vick’s number as a fan, they’re supporting his entire career on and off the field. They see that Vick’s return from prison rewarded him with one of the largest paychecks of anyone playing in the NFL today, and he continues to thrive regardless of his actions.
So how should we feel about supporting a man who exalted in animal cruelty until he was caught? And should we really reward Vick for being outed on abusing his status when so many others would have never gone down such a path? Especially when there are better ways to use his past as a teaching tool? Care2 members have already begun letting Vick know they plan to boycott his V7 line– you can add your own opinion, too!