Refuting Story: Michael Vick Deserves Our Forgiveness


Michael Vick

Several Facebook friends and “fans” have suggested that I reply to Chicago Tribune writer Steve Chapman’s story, Michael Vick deserves our forgiveness.

He begins the piece noting Vick’s personal involvement in the strangling and beating of dogs, and drowning them.

Chapman (and others in social media) seem to suggest that losing millions in endorsements and spending 18 months in jail was price enough to be paid for the star National Football League quarterback so now being named a Pro Bowl Captain is acceptable.

However, what wasn’t mentioned in this well written piece, is that Vick never served a day for dog fighting or the heinous animal cruelty crimes described above, though he admitted guilt. Instead, his highly paid attorneys plea bargained for the lesser felony of racketeering. Also not mentioned were various other crimes or at least inappropriateness, including alleged drug use and lying to Federal investigators, his teammates and the general public – until he had no choice but to admit guilt.

Tugg, a Bad Newz dog

At that point in Vick mostly complained about losing money on the dogs. Here is what he told Kathy Strouse, a lead investigator with the Virginia Animal Control Association who helped uncover Vick’s dog fighting ring, entitled “Badd Newz: The Untold Story of the Michael Vick Dog Fighting Case.”

“Yeah fine. I killed the dogs. I hung them. I slammed them. I killed all of them. I lost fucking million, all over some fucking dogs.”

As I point out in more detail in a story I wrote refuting those, who like Chapman, seem to suggest that Vick paid his time and all should be forgotten or at least forgiven.

Vick and Wayne Pacelle

Vick was paroled early and limited to stay at his estate, and then partnered with the Humane Society of the United States and their CEO at the time Wayne Pacelle for a “tour” to speak to at risk children in various cities about being kind to animals. I suggest the real intent of the tour, orchestrated by Vick handlers, was to primarily address his awful PR persona and ultimately with a goal to again play in the NFL. When Vick was first prosecuted, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said he is “indefinitely suspended.”

Despite dealing various “issues of controversy” of his own, which Chapman points out in the story, and I agree that Pacelle has been one of the most important champions of animal welfare in modern American history. Under his leadership, the HSUS helped enact dozens of laws to protect animals, including banning cockfighting. And in the Tribune Chapman extolled the various HSUS accomplishment under Pacelle (who is a friend), but doesn’t mention his significant ability as a super amazing fundraiser.

I was there Mr. Chapman. While on the Board of the American Humane Association, we were offered the opportunity to have our then CEO go on “tour” with Vick. I don’t recall all the details, but clearly it was presented as a chance to fundraise off Vick’s celebrity and the organic PR these events would receive. American Humane (and as I recall unanimously) said ‘no thank you.’ The HSUS accepted, and reportedly Vick paid the HSUS for the opportunity. Of course, the HSUS decision was controversial, and some withdrew donations, but many others donated.

The Vick and Pacelle road shows were choreographed without offering attendees or press opportunities to ask questions. Indeed, Vick did speak of the downfalls of dog fighting and that you must control your own destiny no matter where you grow up. Incidentally, from those I know who attended, Pacelle did a far better job and was more compelling as a speaker.

James Brown on “60 Minutes” on CBS asked Vick about these the road shows with Pacelle, and whether his thoughts were his own that from his champion PR team who helped Vick to get through interviews and all appearances. Of course, he maintained his words are his own.

To this day, while Vick has talked about what others should do regarding animal welfare, and has indeed said “I’m sorry,” he has never remorsefully outlined what he did.

Goodell was impressed with the HSUS events and did the predicted  turnaround and allowed Vick to return to the NFL.

Chapman concludes, “But redemption is something to celebrate. And the only people who can be redeemed are those who have done wrong.”

I want to say I have no issue with redemption. But what Michael Vick did is, for me, difficult to forgive.

However, forgiving Vick is one thing, but offering him a pedestal to stand on –– is difficult to comprehend.

Unrelated but not, Michael Vick offered advice to free agent Colin Kaepernick to cut his hair to “improve his image.” It is, after all, about image.

I don’t feel badly or sorry that I oppose Vick not being allowed to Captain the NFL Pro Bowl. He actually got off easy, considering the depth of his various crimes. Despite what Goodell originally said and what the court suggested (but never mandated), Vick was allowed to again play in the NFL. This person, who broke at least one dog’s neck with his own hands, was allowed to have a pet dog (again a reversal of an original decision). I suspect Vick has more money than most of us will ever see in a lifetime. That’s well and good, I suppose. But pointing to Vick as a Captain, a leader that others who hope to emulate is shameful.

Forgiveness, possibly. Honoring Michael Vick? Tell me why.