Animal lovers and football teams react to news of Michael Vick's conditional reinstatement in the NFL
Yesterday's announcement that Michael Vick, former star quarterback and hopefully reformed dogfighter, has been conditionally reinstated in the NFL was met with widely varying responses from sports fans and animal lovers.
Our colleague Diane Pucin is both -- a sports fan and an avowed animal lover. Pucin writes today from Kanab, Utah, site of the Best Friends Animal Society sanctuary, which worked with 22 of Vick's pit bulls after they were seized from his Bad Newz Kennels:
Your head says Michael Vick has served his time, has suffered some punishment for his horrific involvement in a dogfighting ring and that people who have committed more serious crimes are allowed to leave prison and go back to work.
Your heart, though, remembers a May day in a large and airy kennel here at Best Friends Animal Society, and Georgia, one of the unlucky members of Vick's Bad Newz Kennels, where she was taught to fight and then, because she was so good at that, had all her teeth pulled -- by a veterinarian. That way she could serve her time as a breeding bitch, whether she wanted to or not.
Georgia, Pucin says, is a happy, wiggly ambassador for her breed -- and she's better than many humans, because, unlike those among us who haven't forgiven Vick for his actions, she has been able to forgive humankind and learn to trust even after all the torment she suffered at the hands of Vick and his cohorts.
As for Vick, the onetime star quarterback "says he understands the mistakes he made in the past, and we can only hope that he is sincere and able to take steps to turn his life around," reads a statement released by Best Friends after NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's announcement that Vick will be allowed to return to professional football.
One potentially life-altering step for Vick is his planned partnership with the Humane Society of the United States; he'll work with the group on its anti-dogfighting campaign. But even Humane Society president and CEO Wayne Pacelle has said he's not certain of Vick's intentions with the partnership, which many have suggested is merely a calculated public-relations stunt designed to endear him to Goodell.
"I sat with the man, but I still don’t know what’s in his heart," Pacelle wrote on his blog shortly after the unlikely partnership was announced. But, Pacelle continued, Vick claims to be a changed man who "wants to show the American public that he is committed to helping combat this problem. He asked for an opportunity to help. I want to give him that opportunity." (Thus far, Vick's participation in the Humane Society's campaign has been hindered somewhat by the conditions of his parole, which limit his ability to travel for public appearances, our colleague Sam Farmer reports.)
Following Goodell's announcement, Vick released his own statement through his agent. "As you can imagine, the last two years have given me time to re-evaluate my life, mature as an individual and fully understand the terrible mistakes I have made in the past and what type of life I must lead moving forward," it read.
Of course, it remains to be seen which, if any, NFL team will scoop up Vick, who was released from his contract with the Atlanta Falcons last month. Farmer mused that teams including the New England Patriots, the Miami Dolphins, the Oakland Raiders, the Buffalo Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals might have reason to consider hiring him. So far, both the Dolphins and the Bengals have made it clear that they're not interested.
Michael Vick's prison sentence for dogfighting is complete
Sports Illustrated features Michael Vick's pit bulls
OTHER L.A. TIMES STORIES:
Sam Farmer: NFL conditionally reinstates Michael Vick
Diane Pucin: Michael Vick paid his debt, but should NFL let him play?
Sam Farmer: Michael Vick must show remorse for his actions
-- Lindsay Barnett
Photo: Georgia, one of the pit bulls rescued from Michael Vick's Bad Newz Kennels, sits with trainer John Garcia at the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in May 2009. Photo: Diane Pucin / Los Angeles Times