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UPDATE: NFL Defends Decision To Honor Michael Vick At Pro Bowl

UPDATE 12/16/19:

Despite nearly one million petition signatures calling for Michael Vick’s removal as a Pro Bowl legends captain, the NFL has decided to stand by the former quarterback and convicted dog fighter.

Change.org petitions from dog lover Joanna Lind and Aladdin Nation urged the organization to remove Vick from the game and its associated events. Both argued that his abusive history with dogs should render him unworthy of the honor.

Lucas, one of Vick’s former fighting dogs/Photo via Best Friends Animal Society

However, the outcry from animal-loving fans fell on deaf ears. When the NFL finally responded to the Pro Bowl controversy, it was to announce their continuing support of Vick.

“Over the last, what is it, nine years or so, we have supported Michael in his, what I think his recognition of the mistake he made,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced Wednesday. “He’s paid a heavy price for that. He’s been accountable for it. He’s worked aggressively with the Humane Society and other institutions to deal with animal rights and to make sure people don’t make the same mistake he made, and I admire that.”

Former Vick fighting dog, Handsome Dan/Photo via Best Friends Animal Society

In response, countless dog lovers have vowed to boycott the Pro Bowl and its sponsors, including Verizon, Disney, ESPN, Camping World Stadium, and even the entire city of Orlando!

There is also a new change.org petition urging fans to turn their backs on the NFL, the Pro Bowl, and all its sponsors. It reads, in part:

“The NFL, Disney, ESPN, the city of Orlando, and Camping World Stadium should not be condoning the torture and murder of dogs by allowing Michael Vick to be involved in the Pro Bowl – or any other professional sport.  Please do not buy any products, merchandise, vacations, tickets, shows, etc. until they replace him.

It is beyond baffling why they would possibly choose Michael Vick when there are so many players who are worthy of the honor and have not been convicted of torturing and murdering dogs!!!  PLEASE TELL HIS SPONSORS NO MORE!!!  STOP GIVING ANY MONEY OR SUPPORT TO THESE BUSINESSES UNTIL THEY REPLACE MICHAEL VICK!”

What do you think about the decision to honor Michael Vick as a team captain and player mentor? Will you watch the Pro Bowl on January 26, 2020 — or join the 120,000+ dog lovers who have signed the new petition?

ORIGINAL POST 12/9/19:

The name Michael Vick sparks feelings of sorrow and rage in the hearts of animal lovers everywhere. Sorrow for the countless dogs that suffered and died at his hands. Rage for the way his crimes were swept under the rug and seemingly forgotten by the NFL.

Recently, these feelings were reignited when the organization announced Vick’s nomination as one of four “legends captains” for the upcoming NFL Pro Bowl game.

Michael Vick’s 2007 mugshot

Outraged fans responded in droves, signing Change.org petitions calling for Vick’s removal.

A petition started by Joanna Lind has more than 420,000 signatures. The message at the top reads:

“Just saw this on Facebook and was absolutely disgusted. When is the NFL going to take any responsibility for the behavior of its current and former players? To honor a man who had zero regard for animals is unacceptable and I would like your help to make sure he is NOT honored at the 2020 NFL Pro Bowl.”  

Vicktory Dog Oscar, Photo via Best Friends Animal Society

Another petition, created by Aladdin Nation, has over 215,000 signatures and proclaims:

“Mike Vick does not deserve the honor of being Pro Bowl Captain. He is a convicted felon and a known animal abuser, is this who we want our children to look up to? Disney, how could you condone this?? There are so many players that have made amazing contribution to society, however Michael Vick is not one of them.”

Vicktory Dog Little Red, Photo via Best Friends Animal Society

The legends captain title means Vick will serve as a mentor for Pro Bowl players and be present on the sidelines on game day. He will also attend various events throughout Pro Bowl Week in Orlando.

The other three captains are Former Washington cornerback Darrell Green, Buffalo Bills defensive end Bruce Smith, and Denver Broncos running back Terrell Davis.

However, as Yahoo Sports writer, Jason Owens points out, these players did not “organize a dogfighting ring that saw dogs tortured, electrocuted, drowned, hanged, shot and beaten to death.”

Vicktory Dogs Curly & Mya, Photo via Best Friends Animal Society

Did Vick’s punishment fit the crime?

After a polygraph exam revealed Vick was lying about his involvement in the dogfighting ring, he confessed. He served 19 months of a 23 month sentence before returning to the NFL for seven additional seasons. He was even honored as the 2010 comeback player of the year. After that, he signed with Fox Sports as an analyst.

What many people don’t realize is that Vick never served a day in prison for animal cruelty.

“Neither Michael Vick nor any of his Bad Newz Kennels cohorts were ever tried let alone convicted for animal cruelty. The federal case was all about racketeering,” Francis Battista, co-founder and chairman of the board of directors for Best Friends Animal Society said.

In other words, Vick’s record is clear of any animal-related charges. Therefore, his fans were spared the most gruesome details of the investigation.

After just a year-and-a-half, he was welcomed back into the world of professional football with open arms.

Lucas, one of only two Vicktory dogs ordered to remain at Best Friends Animal Society for life, Photo via Best Friends Animal Society

Has Vick shown adequate remorse?

According to an investigator, after failing his FBI polygraph test, Vick uttered the words:

“Yeah, fine, I killed the dogs. I hung them. I slammed them. I killed all of them. I lost f***ing millions all over some f***ing dogs.”

This quote comes from the 2009 book, Bad Newz: The Untold Story of the Michael Vick Dog Fighting Case. The author, Kathy Strouse, was a lead investigator with the Virginia Animal Control Association who helped uncover Vick’s crimes.

In addition, a 2008 report on the case from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s inspector general-investigations division noted that, “Vick, Peace and Phillips thought it was funny to watch the pit bull dogs belonging to Bad Newz Kennels injure or kill the other dogs.”

More gruesome details from the report can be read at ESPN.com.

Cherry the Vicktory Dog snuggles with her adoptive cat sibling, Photo via Best Friends Animal Society

While working to rebuild his football career, Vick also sought to restore his reputation by advocating for the Humane Society’s anti-dogfighting campaign.

“The best thing to do was make amends for what I did. I can’t take it back,” Vick told The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in August 2016. “The only thing I can do is influence the masses of kids from going down the same road I went down. That’s why I work with the Humane Society and affecting a lot of kids’ lives and saving a lot of animals. We’ve had lot of a progress. We’ve been able to change some laws and do some great things that I’m very proud of.”

However, in light of witness testimony and Vick’s own comments during the investigation, can we really believe his remorse is genuine?

Georgia the Vicktory Dog, Photo via Best Friends Animal Society

What happened to the surviving dogs of Bad Newz Kennels?

51 dogs were found alive when Vick’s property was raided. Two died from injuries/illness. One was humanely euthanized due to injuries/illness. And one was put to sleep for aggression. The remaining 47 dogs were dispersed among experienced rescue groups.

Best Friends Animal Society took custody of 22 of the most traumatized animals. According to their website:

“Some of the dogs would flatten themselves like pancakes to avoid being noticed by people. Some expressed fear toward both humans and other dogs.”

Handsome Dan the Vicktory Dog with his adoptive family, Photo via Best Friends Animal Society

Thanks to the training, veterinary care, and in-depth emotional support they received at the Best Friends Sanctuary, many of the dogs earned their Canine Good Citizen certificates and went on to loving homes. Some even became service dogs and therapy dogs.

Only two of the 22 horrifically abused animals were court-ordered to remain at Best Friends for life. Even these two gave their trust to a handful of select employees, living out their days in happiness at the Sanctuary.

The surviving dogs are affectionately referred to as the Best Friends “Vicktory” dogs. Read some of their incredible stories here.

Do you think Michael Vick deserves to be honored as an NFL Pro Bowl legends captain? Should his past finally be left behind him? Let us know what you think!

If you would like to add your name to the Change.org petitions calling for Michael Vick’s removal as a Pro Bowl captain, click here and here.

Despite the recent uproar, the NFL has yet to comment on the petitions or Vick’s status as a legends captain.

H/T to BET.com and CNN.com
Featured Image via Best Friends Animal Society

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Written by Dina Fantegrossi
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