By Joel Alderman
The Atlanta Falcons of the National Football League have again been bitten (to use an unfortunate description) by animal cruelty charges levied against one of its players, and this time the reaction of the club was quick and decisive.
The Falcons have a well known history in this area due to the infamous dog fighting ring operated by a group including its then quarterback, Michael Vick, in 2007. The team later cut ties with Vick, who ended up serving time in a federal prison and is very unlikely ever to play for the Falcons again.
Vick did come back to the NFL with Philadelphia, and last year was a New York Jet. Recently the Jets let him go and he is now a free agent looking for a team.
Now, eight years later, another dog incident involving a Falcons’ player resulted in linebacker Prince Shembo being placed on waivers. It came about after he was charged with aggravated animal cruelty when it was determined that a dog, owned by his former girlfriend, had died as the result of blunt force trauma.
A team statement says ‘‘We are aware of the charges that have been filed against Prince Shembo. We are extremely disappointed that one of our players is involved in something like this. Accordingly, we have decided to waive Prince Shembo.”
A gruesome scenario
According to Shembo’s now ex-girlfriend, Denicia Williams, she had left Dior, her female Yorkshire Terrier, with the NFL player in his apartment on April 15th. She later returned, found Dior unresponsive, and took her to an animal hospital, where she soon died.
Williams told police that the next day Shembo told her by phone that he had kicked the dog, whereupon she ended their relationship.
An autopsy on the dog was performed on April 21st, and tissue samples were sent to a lab at the University of Georgia. The results of the testing came out last Thursday and according to police they showed that the dog had a fractured rib, fractured liver, abdominal hemorrhage, thoracic hemorrhage, extensive bruising and hemorrhage in the muscles in her front leg and shoulders, head trauma, hemorrhage and edema in the lungs, hemorrhage between the esophagus and trachea and hemorrhage in the left eye, with internal injuries.
Shembo’s lawyer, Jerry Froelich, said that, as his client was putting Dior in a cage, the dog bit his hand. In response, he delivered a kick. “When you’re a small dog it doesn’t take much” the lawyer admitted, and stated that Dior’s death was accidental.
Most Yorkshire Terriers weigh no more than seven pounds. Prince Shembo is listed at 6-foot 2-inches and weighs about 245 pounds.
The lawyer said Shembo is the owner of a dog himself and has never hurt it, and that he “was in tears” about the aggravated animal cruelty charge and his unexpected release from the Falcons.
Shembo, who went to Notre Dame University, is 23 and was a fourth-round draft pick last year. In his rookie season he saw action in all 16 games, including three as a starter, and was credited with making 59 tackles. Atlanta’s new coach, Dan Quinn, had planned to move Shembo to outside linebacker and give him an opportunity to win a spot in the pass rush rotation.
This is not the first time Shembo has been involved in a serious controversy. In 2010, while at Notre Dame, he was investigated, but not charged, for inappropriately touching a female student, Lizzy Seeberg, at ND’s sister school, St. Mary’s College. Tragically, ten days after the alleged incident, the life of the 19-year old freshman ended after taking an overdose of an antidepressant, Effexor.
The ironic coincidence
Today, Prince Shembo is no longer employed by a National Football League team, nor is the former New York Jets’ backup quarterback, Michael Vick. They both made bad choices when they were members of the Atlanta Falcons.