By Joel Alderman
Those fans of the New York Jets who care a great deal about dogs have just been thrust into a dilemma. Do they cheer for their team’s newly signed quarterback, the man known for his dogfighting enterprise, Michael Vick?
Over the weekend, the Jets announced that they had released Mark Sanchez and signed Vick, who will now compete with Gene Smith for a starting role. The injury prone Vick will receive $5 million for the 2014 season.
Immediately after word got out, Jets fans, those for other teams, and just animal (particularly dog) lovers began weighing in, pro and con, on newspaper web sites, Twitter, other message boards, and radio talk shows.
To passionate pro football fans, the bottom line is usually to see their team get to and win the Super Bowl, most any way possible. The hard core fans have short memories. They don’t care if John Dillinger and his gang were playing, as long as their team wins. In this case, they are only interested in whether Vick will throw enough completed passes to justify his uniform.
But on a more rational basis, there is much being said about whether Vick, as a person and a symbol, would be a good addition to Gang Green.
Among a large segment of football and non-football fans, there still exists a bad taste from the former Atlanta quarterback’s participation in and financing of a dog fighting operation, the Bad Newz Kennels, in 2007.
Vick was convicted in Federal Court and served 19 months of a 23-month sentence. In addition to mistreating dogs while they were alive, he purportedly killed several of them who refused to fight or whose ability to fight had diminished. The dogs were done away with by such means as hanging or drowning.
At his sentencing, the judge criticized Vick for “promoting, funding and facilitating this cruel and inhumane sporting activity.”
Trying to build a new image after prison
He was reinstated by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in 2009, but the clubs were not exactly lining up for him to join them. In fact the Falcons, his previous team, were not at all interested in his return and even went after some of his original signing bonus money.
Vick finally hooked up with Philadelphia and played with the Eagles the last five seasons, although injuries limited him to just seven games last year. He will be 34 on June 26th, and can still look forward to a few more years on the field, if he can stay healthy.
His opponents and his supporters A longtime New York Jets fan who also has been one of Vick’s severest and outspoken critics is Victor (Buddy) Amato. He is the Chief Humane Law Enforcement Officer for Monmouth County, and is charged with enforcing the New Jersey Animal Cruelty Laws. He says, about Vick, “I personally have no use for him.”(1)
Amato, who has been instrumental in a long list of arrests and convictions for animal cruelty, lives in and is employed by the same state where the Jets’ home games are played. He has now become one of those fans who will be caught in the middle when the NFL season starts.
Meanwhile, the owner of the Jets, Woody Johnson, admitted to Bob Glauber of Long Island Newsday during the recent owners’ meetings that he “is aware of and sensitive to the criticism among some Jets fans who are angry.” He went on to say that “people I’ve talked to think he’s a changed person” and “he really regrets what he did.”(2)
Those speaking out for Vick believe that he was entitled to that so-called “second chance.” But the opposite thinking is that a second chance should apply to white collar crimes or to personal offenses, such as using illegal drugs. Those are mistakes in judgment, they feel.
Torturing and killing dogs are not, they maintain, just mistakes in judgment. Rather, they are intentional acts that do not deserve a second chance since the harm has already been inflicted upon those animals and cannot be taken undone.
Vick’s advocates also claim that by serving a prison sentence as a convicted felon he “paid his debt to society” and should be able to pick up where he left off.
The question remains did he actually pay a debt to society or just to the judicial system? They point out that whatever debt he paid did not benefit the defenseless canine victims in whose killing he participated.
Which side is right?
There is really no right or wrong side here. No one can get into the head of Michael Vick to determine whether his expressions of regret are from the heart, or are financially driven, or both. So let him pick up his $5-million this year for playing with the Jets, plus somewhat more from royalties for the sale of Jets jerseys with his name and number.
At the same time his new team’s fans will form their own individual opinions about whether he should or should not be a member of Gang Green. How many of them will stay loyal to the Jets may be difficult to determine.
There is one thing I forgot to mention, which has nothing to do with the story but is an unfortunate coincidence and certainly not a good public relations decision by his new team.
(1) Baumgarten, Gary, 1010 WINS. (2014, March 22). Animal Advocates Not Happy About Jets’ Choice To Sign Michael Vick. CBSNew York (Online), retrieved March 24, 2014.
(2) Glauber, Bob. (2014, March 23). Woody Johnson believes Michael Vick is a ‘changed person.’ (online), retrieved March 24, 2014
(3) National Puppy Day was founded in 2006 by the author, Colleen Page, to help save orphaned puppies and educate the public about the horrors of puppy mills.
(2014, March 23) Colleen Paige home.family. Pets. (n.d.). (March 23, 2014.