Michael Vick: Still no takers in the NFL for disgraced quarterback
Late last month, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced that former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick will be allowed to return to professional football. Vick, of course, was banned from league play following the revelation of his involvement in a dogfighting ring called Bad Newz Kennels.
The announcement was met with a mixed public reaction; some football fans cheered the return of Vick, whose talent on the field is unquestionable. But many animal lovers fumed.
"Michael Vick is a sick individual. No one says he can't earn a living. But I sure don't want to see him on my TV every Sunday afternoon," Unleashed reader SCGirl wrote.
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals president Ed Sayres expressed a similar sentiment in the weeks before Vick's conditional reinstatement was announced. In a statement, Sayres said that Vick "most decidedly deserves to be employed. However, the question isn't whether he deserves to earn a livelihood ... The question is whether Mr. Vick should be able to re-join the ranks of the elite athletes in the NFL." Professional football players are looked on by many people as both heroes and role models, Sayres added, questioning whether it's appropriate to put a player with Vick's record of animal cruelty in such a position.
Public outcry or no, Vick will, most likely, be back on the football field in the fall -- that is, if a team will hire him. The Falcons released him from his contract in June. And representatives from several other teams have announced publicly that they're not interested, among them the Miami Dolphins and the Cincinnati Bengals.
Add one Southern California team -- the San Diego Chargers -- to the "do not want" list. "Some head coaches and GMs would talk about it, but for what?" Chargers General Manager A.J. Smith said in an interview with The Times. "I don't know why you'd want to fool with it."
Also on the list of uninterested teams, according to USA Today: the Buffalo Bills, the New York Giants, the Oakland Raiders, the St. Louis Rams and the San Francisco 49ers, among others.
Some have speculated that the Green Bay Packers may take the plunge and sign the disgraced former star, but the team's general manager, Ted Thompson, has remained coy. "What is the answer that we give to questions like this? We're always looking to improve our team," he told the Associated Press. "We look at all options at all times. I wouldn't care to speculate in terms of the odds or the percentages (of signing Vick) or anything like that."
Meanwhile, it's still unclear just what Vick's role will entail in his planned partnership with the Humane Society of the United States on its anti-dogfighting campaign. After the partnership between the animal protection organization and the former dogfighter was announced, Humane Society president and CEO Wayne Pacelle said that he couldn't be certain of Vick's intentions; many guessed that the move was a calculated one on Vick's part, designed to put him back in the good graces of the NFL. But, Pacelle wrote on his blog, Vick told him that he had "changed forever. And he said he 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."
Pacelle shared some interesting insights, including what he saw as an "insurance policy" for the Humane Society when it agreed to work with Vick, in the video below:
Earlier this week, a planned celebration for Vick in his home city of Newport News, Va., was postponed because, Vick said, it conflicted with an event he was attending in Atlanta. The Newport News event's coordinator said that the Atlanta event was a Humane Society function, but the Humane Society had no comment when questioned by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
For its part, PETA has vowed to keep a close eye on Vick as he begins his new life outside Leavenworth prison, and it has started a letter-writing campaign to Goodell asking him to mandate completion of its online course "Developing Empathy for Animals" for all NFL players.
-- Lindsay Barnett
Photo: Vick during a 2006 Atlanta Falcons-Dallas Cowboys game. Credit: Rob Carr / Associated Press
Video: Humane Society of the United States