Nils Lofgren wrote a very detailed and passionate letter to the sports reporting community at large. The topic of discussion was Michael Vick. If you haven't read it yet, check it out here Nils Lofgren . He brought up many good points and I believe he summarized how a large part of the country feels about Vick, The NFL and the sports media perspective.
ESPN Should do More for Dogs
Comments and thoughts about the letter are welcomed here but I want to focus on the number of comments generated by the post on ESPN's blog. At the time of this writing, the post has 8487 comments, 19,000 shares on facebook and 434 tweets. Big numbers.
In comparison, Francis Battista posted about Vick on the Best Friends Blog . Best Friends Animal Society is well respected, well followed animal welfare organization that has a history with the Vick dogs. That post generated 202 comments and the facebook numbers came in at just over 5600. These are also pretty big numbers but most of the people who frequent the BFAS blog are there because they have an interest in the organization and animal welfare in general.
If you look through some of the comments on either post, you'll find the usual emotional responses along with some comments by people who , let's say, will probably never be a part of any solution. My point is that there are lots of comments on both blogs but a little over 42% more people chose to comment on the ESPN blog. This is an opportunity.
Unless he does anything stupid, Vick is going to be a pro football player for the foreseeable future. Like it or not, he IS going to be in the headlines and many of those headlines will be generated by ESPN. What Vick did is unforgivable and the debate continues as to whether or not he has again earned the right to play in the NFL. Feel free to comment on that as well but that argument doesn't seem to be going anywhere fast. His name will be forever linked to dog fighting and every time his name is mentioned people, somewhere in their minds, are probably thinking about his transgressions.
ESPN has multiple channels, a strong internet presence, a diverse audience and a huge national influence. I watch their programming (more than my wife would like) and I am constantly hearing the story of Vick. This will remain to be an emotionally charged subject and as long as people are watching ESPN... why not take the opportunity to continue to raise awareness for dog fighting and other dog-related issues?
ESPN is all sports, all the time but they have shown that they will back social causes (Jimmy V. Foundation). They have the resources and, most importantly, they have that huge audience mentioned before. ESPN is an entertainment enterprise and has no responsibility as a social organization. They are, however, a huge part of our culture and, whether they wanted it or not, are in a unique position to help make some positive changes for dogs. Vicks' crimes are in the past but his story will continue to remain in the spotlight. As long as people are talking about Vick...they will be talking about dogs. Why not take the opportunity to educate and reach a different and larger audience?
I watch or listen to ESPN Radio's Mike and Mike in the Morning every day it's on and today is no exception. Just a minute ago they were talking about Vick and the Eagles. It would be great if they could get their vaunted research department ( Russel Baxter if you follow the show) to dig up a dog-related stat and share that every time they mention Vick. A very simple thing to do and it would go a long way to reaching an audience that hasn't been as sensitive to the dog issues that we, as a society, have created in our country. Change can be slow but why not take advantage of an opportunity to speed up the process? I hope ESPN sees that they are in a position to help and chooses to do so.