(DOGS/OP/ED) After the Philadelphia Eagles wild-card loss to the New Orleans Saints over the weekend, animal rights activists all over the country rejoiced in hopes that back-up quarterback Michael Vick wouldn’t be resigned to the team—especially us here at Global Animal. The Global Animal team recently added a new member to the family, a rescue pit bull named Lulu. Lulu was used for breeding purposes in dog fighting rings and could have easily been one of the many dogs killed by Michael Vick.
The NFL notoriously overlooks players’ controversial pasts because they have a good arm, and this needs to change. What does it teach the kids who look up to a man like Vick? The fact that the Eagles picked up Michael Vick three short months after his stint in federal prisons gives kids the idea that animal cruelty is okay as long as you’re talented. Continue reading to know more about Vick and his future with the NFL. — Global Animal
New York Times, Juliet Macur
PHILADELPHIA — Michael Vick, the quarterback known as much for his rap sheet as his athletic skill, watched the football tumble through the uprights not long before midnight on Saturday and knew his time was up.
The field goal that gave the New Orleans Saints the victory in an N.F.C. wild-card game over the Philadelphia Eagles very likely represented Vick’s final moments in an Eagles jersey. After losing his starting job to the young Nick Foles this season, Vick didn’t take a snap during the game. He stood like a spectator on the sideline, looking helpless and anonymous in a long black coat and an Eagles knit cap.
In the locker room afterward, Vick, 33, basically said he was too good to be a backup and wanted to be a starter somewhere next season. With Foles tabbed as the future of the franchise, don’t count on it being here in Philly.
Animal lovers everywhere can cheer Vick’s departure from this city. Especially those who have had to watch him play here since 2009, less than three months after he served time in a federal prison for his role in a dogfighting ring.
If the Eagles cut him loose this off-season, teams considering giving him a third chance in the N.F.L. should be required to look past his strong left arm, his nimble feet and his potentially cost-effective upside.
They should remember this: Vick was the mastermind behind his dogfighting operation. He bankrolled it, gave it a home base, encouraged it.
In the backyard of his Virginia home were mass graves of pit bulls that had fought for him or had been torn apart serving as bait dogs in practice sessions. The surviving dogs were found barely alive, beaten, starved, tortured and chained to concrete slabs.
There was Georgia, a caramel-colored beauty who had all 42 of her teeth pried from her mouth so she wouldn’t fight during forced breeding. There was Ellen, who managed to retain her fuzzy cuteness even when half of her face drooped because of the nerve damage caused by fighting.
There was Cherry, a black-and-white tiny ball of fur, with a craggy pattern of thick, deep scars from chemical burns on his back. When I visited him and 21 other Vick dogs at the Best Friends Animal Society sanctuary in 2008, he continued to tremble even as I petted him gently for more than an hour.
And those were some of the lucky ones. Dogs that did not perform well for Vick were drowned, electrocuted, shot. He admitted to holding dogs while a noose was placed over their heads, then dropping those dogs to their deaths.
Once, he and a friend grabbed the paws of a little red dog and held it over their heads, like a jump rope, slamming the animal on the ground again and again until it was lifeless, according to “The Lost Dogs” by Jim Gorant, a book about the dogs in Vick’s ring.
Teams evaluating Vick should think about those horrors before offering him a chance to wear their jersey. They should say, “Can’t we give our fans someone better to cheer for?” Fans should demand someone better.
The Eagles didn’t. Instead of passing on Vick when he was released from prison and perhaps forcing him to play in the Canadian league or having him work his way back up, the Eagles immediately chose to reward him with a two-year contract, paying him $1.6 million the first year, then $5.2 million. By 2011, he had a six-year, $100 million contract.
The cast of characters in Saturday’s game was a reminder of just how generous the league is with its ridiculous offers of second chances, like Vick’s.
Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper made racist remarks about African-Americans — on a team filled with African-Americans — and still ended up starting in the playoffs, the recipient of roaring cheers.
Saints Coach Sean Payton was suspended last year for a bounty program in which players were paid to inflict serious injuries on their opponents, and still he was hailed for ushering the Saints to their first ever road playoff win.
What can children who watch the game and idolize its players learn from that?
If you can throw a football, if you can catch a football, if you can call plays that win big games, then nothing else matters.
You can be capable of cracking a little dog’s skull against the ground as it struggles to breathe. You can show disrespect to the men you call your teammates by using racial slurs. You can violate the game’s rules and society’s rules by encouraging your players to physically hurt others, to give them head injuries, torn anterior cruciate ligaments or broken bones.
And what will it get you in the N.F.L.? Huge contracts. Applause. A bank account stuffed with money.
Vick told me on Saturday that he had grown up since serving time in prison and had done a lot to redeem himself in the eyes of the public.
“I’ve changed in so many ways, so many — why don’t you write that?” he told me as he walked off from his locker, leaving behind a few shirts, cocoa butter lotion, a bottle of baby oil and green shower shoes.
He donated $200,000 to help renovate a football field in Philadelphia. He has worked with the Humane Society of the United States — the same organization that said all of Vick’s fighting dogs should be euthanized — to warn children of the evils of dogfighting.
He supported a bill on Capitol Hill that would make it a felony to bring a child to a dogfight, because he said going to fights as a boy was what set him on his misguided path.
Vick, who owns a family dog after having previously been barred from doing so, showed me the six-inch fuzzy teddy bear that he carries in his duffel bag for good luck. The bear was a gift from his three children last Christmas. Signs of a changed man? Maybe.
But the Eagles should make it easy for their fans. They should replace Vick with someone devoid of a dark past, someone who hasn’t been in prison for such a reprehensible crime. It’s a pathetically low bar, but it ought to be the bare minimum.