In August 2008 I took a viewpoint of the then then-federal prisoner Michael Vick that was shared by very, very few in the rescue community. I wrote:
“…I'm sure that there are many who feel that Vick he is a horrible person that did horrible things and should be thoroughly punished and should not be allowed to play football ever again. And while that sentiment is understandable I believe it would be unfair to have given those dogs a chance at redemption but not extend that same chance at redemption to Vick as well…
…Here's my crazy wish for Michael Vick. My wish is that he really has seen the error of his ways, that decides to champion the fight against animal cruelty when he is released from prison, regains his superstardom in the NFL, and uses his fame to raise awareness for the cause.
I know it's nuts of me to hope for such a thing, but wouldn't it be great if it happened? I think it's worth giving it a chance."
It’s now 14 months later and 3 months since Vick’s release from federal custody. To those of you in the rescue community that disagreed with me I have something to say to you.
I was wrong.
Vick has been a total disappointment in his promise to redeem himself. To this date there is no indication that Vick nor anyone representing him have done anything to check on the welfare of the so-called “Vick dogs”. In his first statement to the press following his prison release he apologized to his fans, family, teammates, his former NFL team, but failed to mention the actual victims, the dogs themselves.
He failed to make any conciliatory acts or gestures before the NFL chose to reinstate him. And when he did finally chose a public path toward redemption who did he align himself with? The Humane Society of the United States, the same organization that called for the summary execution of the Vick dogs before any of them had been evaluated for possible rehabilitation. There’s something ironic about that.
I’m not a professional writer. Anthony Brown of Bleacher Report makes this case much better than I do:
Scribe Written on September 30, 2009
Michael Vick made an entirely too clandestine visit to D.C. to preach against the dangers of dog fighting. he gave his message to a group of at risk...churchgoers.
According to The Post, Vick expressed the false glamour of the thug life and its impact on his family.
"Anything can happen when you're fighting dogs at two or three in the morning," he said. "I'm blessed to be before you and still have my life. It's like standing on the corner and dealing drugs. It's a criminal life."
It's a message that needs to be heard. The Humane Society thinks Michael Vick is a channel to a population they do not reach.
It's piddly-poor publicity when news of Vick's visit reaches us after he's left.
Michael Vick's agreement to make two public appearances a month to speak against dog fighting played a role in his reinstatement to the NFL. He's made similar appearances in Chicago, Philadelphia and Atlanta. The story at the Church Solutions web site says the Humane Society reached out to inner-city churches that "often bear much weight in these urban communities and influence people’s behavior."
Laudable--if the target audience hears the message. The Post reported that "there was a small mix of high school-aged kids among the roughly 75 in attendance." Vick has also pitched his story at schools in other cities where there are more young people, at least.
Inadequate publicity of his visits makes the whole thing a charade. I get it with the church. But if you are in church, you already get that message. A church ringed by police officers deters the very at-risk youth The Humane Society wants to reach. The Post's article suggested as much.
Everybody needs to rethink the best, maximum use of Mr. Vick.
A good start would be the Humane Society itself. They sponsor Vick appearances and appear jointly with him. Yet, Michael Vick's speaking schedule appears nowhere on its own web site as I write this.
Michael Vick's official web page has no anti-cruelty message of any kind. What a missed opportunity!
Young people are unlikely to visit the Humane Society's web page, but they will look at Vick's. There's no better place to weave Mr. Vick's message, direct and edited by the man himself.
Where was the viral text message campaign informing teens that Michael Vick was coming to town? Why was there a police presence outside and inside Covenant Baptist Church where he appeared?
Will we see this on YouTube?
Where's the thought process to place Vick where young people are instead of where they ought to be? And why isn't he appearing at animal shelters to raise funds and volunteers?
Maybe there's a concern about animal rights extremists at a Vick sighting. Know what? There are a lot more people who want to see Michael Vick play and hear what he has to say.
Come on people, you are smarter than this. Or, is it all a charade?