Michael Vick is known for two things: NFL football and dog fighting.
Earlier this week, Michael Vick was named the Subway Sportsman of the Year at the Black Entertainment Television (BET) awards for his efforts as the quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles. His performance was lauded as exceptional “after being off the field for 20 months.”
The win has sparked outrage amongst animal lovers and activists in the United States with a petition on Facebook to boycott the Subway restaurant chain (No Way Subway). There are those who say that, as sponsor of the award, the Subway corporation cannot influence the outcome of voting. Others with experience in the management of professional sport say that the restaurant chain’s management would have been told of the outcome of the voting regardless of the winner – giving them time to prepare publicity about it. Protestors say that this would have been an opportunity for Subway to distance themselves from the winner if they had wanted to.
This debate opens up wounds that are still fairly recent for most dog lovers. Michael Vick pleaded guilty for his actions that spanned the years 2001 – 2007 as a co-conspirator and financial backer of a dog fighting ring. That’s over 6 years of criminal behaviour and only 4 years later, he’s back playing NFL football, earning big bucks for it, and – now- public accolades.
Is it time to forgive Michael Vick?
The details behind the Vick dog fighting ring are not pretty. The pit bulls involved in the operation were terrorized to make them mean and angry. Dogs who were deemed to be unsuitable for fighting were cruelly killed. A 2009 article in the San Francisco Chronicle provides some of the ugly details of the ill-treatment of the dogs. For example, how the dogs were electrocuted by attaching jumper cables to their ears and throwing them into a swimming pool to struggle and die. The sides of the pool had telltale scratches and dents from the dogs as they fought to escape.
Is it time to forgive Michael Vick?
A big enabler of forgiveness is when an offender expresses regret for their actions and the consequences of them. Unfortunately, there is nothing on the record that shows that Michael Vick understood the cruel nature of some of his offending.
In his public statement after pleading guilty to a range of charges, Mr Vick acknowledges that he was ‘immature’ and how he let his fans down. Is this regret for the offending or regret for getting caught?
Michael Vick’s comeback to professional football has come comparatively soon compared to the years he spent offending. Is this right? Or is it the usual story of professional athletes getting put on a pedestal because of their prowess on the sports field? The official record on this case is that Michael Vick has paid his debt to society and is a free man to go about his profession as a professional football player.
Is it time to forgive Michael Vick? Only you can decide for yourself after weighing up the facts.
For the record: I’m not ready to forgive Michael Vick. He hasn’t shown he’s sorry and with the attention he is now getting for his football play, I doubt he ever will. I have to respect, however, that he is technically a free man. That doesn’t make me happy and I reserve the individual right to protest against any company or franchise that backs him. In my opinion, his lack of true remorse is equivalent to an endorsement of animal cruelty and dog fighting and organisations would do well by distancing themselves from such an individual. I’m not ready to forgive Michael Vick and I don’t want to see him endorsed by any awards programme.
Footnote: As part of the plea agreement, Michael Vick was required to establish a fund for the care and rehabilitation of the dogs found at his Bad Newz Kennels. Their story is told in a book which I highly recommend:
Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand