Fox Sports announced August 27 that it has hired former NFL quarterback Michael Vick as a studio analyst for its NFL Kickoff program that immediately precedes NFL Sunday on the Fox network.
The news release announcing the hire was hilarious in the way it avoided the elephant in the room; namely, Vick’s 2007 felony conviction for operating an illegal dog-fighting ring and subsequent year-and-a-half stint in federal prison.
As mostly everyone knows, Vick was a successful quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons when law enforcement authorities discovered he was operating the Bad Newz Kennels dog-fighting enterprise out of his Virginia estate, run by a relative of Vick’s and several friends. Here was a millionaire NFL player who could have spent his off-the-field time doing any number of extracurricular activities, and he chose that.
Upon Vick’s release from federal prison in 2009, he returned to the NFL and was picked up by the Pittsburgh Steelers. At the time, many expressed objection to this, but Humane Society of the U.S. President Wayne Pacelle, who wanted to partner with Vick on an anti-dogfighting outreach effort, openly supported his supposed public rehabilitation and return to professional football.
It was Pacelle’s involvement that convinced me it was okay. Like a lot of people at the time, although I despised what Vick had done I thought his punishment had been more or less appropriate for his offenses. He had been dropped from the NFL, gone to prison (for racketeering, not animal cruelty), been ordered to pay several million dollars in restitution for rehabilitation of his fighting dogs, and return his NFL signing bonus, among other things.
But that was before I had read Vick’s federal indictment, and more importantly, before I read “The Lost Dogs: Michael Vick’s Dogs and Their Tale of Rescue and Redemption” by Sports Illustrated writer Jim Gorant, which was published in 2011.
I urge everyone who thinks they know what really happened, or maybe doesn’t even care, to read this book. It’s very hard to read but it’s eye opening. It chronicles the investigation and prosecution of Vick and his cohorts (even bringing him up on charges was a monumental effort on the part of several dedicated lawmen), and the long road to rehabilitation and recovery for the former fighting dogs who survived the nightmare. Some ended up making it, some didn’t.
You will learn things that were not reported in the mainstream media and which the general public still doesn’t know. Based on what was reported, most people think that Vick bankrolled and hosted a dogfighting ring on his property, maybe had some vague involvement with killing the “losing” dogs, but generally had a hands-off relationship with the day-to-day running of Bad Newz Kennels and the brutality it inflicted on the fighting dogs.
The real truth is far worse.
Not only was Vick intimately involved with running Bad Newz Kennels and its day-to-day activities, when his co-defendants would suggest giving away losing or underperforming dogs, it was Vick who insisted they be killed instead. In the most brutal ways imaginable.
Hanging, electrocution, drowning by submerging their heads in buckets of water. And worse. Often carried out by Vick himself.
It was what happened to the dog identified in the book as “the little red dog” that traumatized me and will haunt me forever.
The female dog had performed poorly in a test fight against another dog. Afterward, they tried hanging her but that failed to kill her. So Vick and another guy, one taking hold of her front legs and the other taking her back legs, raised her like a jump rope over their heads and killed her by repeatedly slamming her into the ground.
The news media won’t ever tell you this.
The argument I hear over and over in defense of Vick, which was repeated often when he first returned to the NFL after getting out of prison, is that “he did his time” and “he paid for his crime” so everyone should be okay with him being welcomed back with open arms. This is all viewed by many people, and especially the news media, as yesterday's news.
But here’s another thing most of the public doesn’t know: That restitution money that he was ordered by the court to pay to rehabilitate the dogs, he didn’t even pay it until he was forced to. The government had to aggressively pursue payment. Which leads one to believe that Vick was not terribly contrite.
I’m not a psychiatric authority, but Michael Vick has always struck me as the definition of a sociopath. I never once got the feeling, in watching his post-prison interviews, that here was someone who was genuinely remorseful for what he did. It always seemed to me he was sorry he got caught.
Because the criminal justice system is finished dealing with him does not mean he deserves a TV job. His football career was pretty average, he never went to a Super Bowl or achieved anything very remarkable on the football field, and surely there are former NFL players with more impressive careers that Fox could put in front of the camera.
Ask other convicted felons how easy it is for them to get a job after being released from prison.
Oh and by the way, if Vick had been convicted of gambling instead of running a dogfighting ring, he would have been permanently banned from the NFL. The NFL is okay with you if you torture and butcher dogs, beat your kid, or beat your wife to an unconscious pulp, but don’t dare gamble. And don't, God forbid, be Colin Kaepernick.
If you’ve read up to this point and you’re still okay with Fox Sports hiring Michael Vick as an on-air analyst, I guess just do nothing.
But if you’re not okay with it, this online petition on Change.org addressed to the head of Fox Sports so far has almost 80,000 signatures.
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