The NFL must remove Michael Vick from the Pro Bowl

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The NFL must remove Michael Vick from the Pro Bowl

Matthew Rago, Managing Editor

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The NFL selected former Atlanta Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles’ quarterback Michael Vick to serve as an honorary captain for the 2020 Pro Bowl, despite two popular petitions demanding his removal. The first petition, hosted by Change.org, has collected almost 680,000 signatures. A second, featured on Animalvictory.org, has gathered upward of 387,000.

In 2007, a judge sentenced Vick to 23 months in prison for running a “cruel and inhumane” dogfighting ring. During the investigation, Vick lied about his involvement, failing both a drug and lie detector test. On Aug. 27, Vick pled guilty to “conspiracy to travel in interstate commerce in aid of unlawful activities and to sponsor a dog in an animal fighting venture.” Steering a five-year operation known as “Bad Newz Kennels” on his Surry County, Va., property, Vick oversaw, sponsored and contributed to the forced combat, torture and execution of pit bulls.

Proponents of Michael Vick’s redemption tour, including NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, point to his humanitarian contributions since his release from prison. He has publicly supported bills enabling law enforcement to break car windows to free trapped pets. He has also vocalized support for a bill that prohibits attendance at organized dogfighting events. In other words, Vick now speaks against the very activity he oversaw.

But Vick’s inclusion in NFL celebrations is unwelcome, as evidenced by the overwhelming support for the petitions seeking to ostracize him. In the eyes of many, Vick will always be a callous coward, so unconcerned with the sanctity of life that he was willing to maim and murder canines to satiate his gambling itch.

And while 2007 may seem like a lifetime ago–George Bush was still president, Bob Barker still hosted the “Price is Right” and I’m pretty sure I owned a Nextel walkie-talkie flip phone–the damage of Vick’s atrocities can never be undone.

Vick can never restore the lives he stole from the pitbulls he battered into subservience. He can never unwrap the nylon cord nooses he placed around the necks of “man’s best friend.” He can never restore life to the dogs he deliberately submerged under water or remove the domesticated dogs he sacrificed to his trained pitbulls from the combat rings where they incurred fatal injuries. He can never withdraw the electricity that coursed through his victims’ bodies or mend the organs that his bullets pierced.

Furthermore, Vick is a classic case of a perpetrator feigning sorrow not because he is actually sorry, but rather because he regrets getting caught. He repeatedly lied to investigators, at first refusing to accept guilt for participating in the actual murders before retracting such statements once he failed a polygraph test.

Vick’s attempts to make amends are a textbook case of overcompensation. According to a USDA report dated Aug. 28., 2008., “Vick, (Purnell) Peace and (Quanis) Phillips thought it was funny to watch the pitbull dogs belonging to Bad Newz Kennels injure or kill the other dogs.”

There’s something inherently heinous about harming the vulnerable. Such a concept is why we ostracize child molesters. It’s why we emblazon rapists and sex predators with a lifelong label. It’s why we attach a stigma against those who engage in the very same animal cruelty Vick participated in.

In one sense, murdering dogs is the equivalent of murdering children; like children, dogs do not understand why their flesh is being ripped from their bodies as an apathetic group of men savagely cheer the brutality. They do not possess the capacity to understand why their owners subject them to merciless beatings as they labor from the injuries sustained during a needless fight. They don’t understand why they can’t catch their breath as they dangle five feet above the ground, wildly struggling against their inevitable doom.

Vick’s actions were cowardly. They were vile. They represent a special type of cruelty reserved for only the most inhumane human beings on the planet.

There’s nothing commendable about the NFL’s superficial attempt to portray Vick as a martyr. His “road to redemption” was not worthy of a documentary in 2016. His presence is not welcome at the 2020 Pro Bowl. He deserves nothing short of unconditional alienation.

Perhaps we should stop referring to Vick as “controversial” or “embattled.” Perhaps we should stop prioritizing athletic prowess over morals, values and basic human decency. Perhaps it’s time we start referring to Vick for what he actually is: a murderer who discarded animals once they could no longer serve his purpose.

 

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