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The Falcon and the Pit Bull


I’m reluctant to chime in on Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick’s indictment on dog fighting charges July 17. I am fully aware an indictment is not a conviction.

That being said, things are not looking promising for the “good” Vick brother who left behind his college year or so at Virginia Tech for a lucrative career in the NFL and helped to support his younger brother Marcus’s brief stint at the school. The younger Vick sabotaged his own career with a string of minor but consistent criminal violations and was ultimately released from his contract with the Miami Dolphins in May.

So one could say the NFL – that paragon of morality – was premature in banning Michael Vick from training at football camp until the investigation is complete. Because, of course, no one connected with the NFL knew anything about what has been described as a “huge” operation before the investigation began in May.

For some reason the NFL’s action reminds me of that famous scene in Casablanca where Captain Renault closes down Rick’s because he is, “. . .shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!” as the croupier hands him his winnings. While I’m not charging the organization with making money off Vick’s operations, I’m having a hard time believing he didn’t offer any of his NFL connections the gaming opportunities inherent in such an operation. We’re not talking some penny-ante backwoods barn dog fight here. This was a well-organized business with attendees coming from all over the country and spending ten of thousands of dollars on a single bout.

And Vick, who pleaded not guilty this week, claims he didn’t know the operation was going on and the property was purchased for a family member. He didn’t notice dog kennels and cramped dog houses in his relative’s backyard? How did he play football with such eyesight?

Fifty-four dogs taken from his property and he didn’t know what was going on? Fifty-four Pit Bulls and he didn’t know what was going on? Fifty-four animals trained to kill and he didn’t know what was going on? A squirrel drops an acorn a quarter mile from my house and my four napping puppies are suddenly the Hounds of the Baskervilles. Are there no squirrels in Surry, Va.?

Vick’s claims were delivered another blow July 30 when one of his co-defendants, Tony Taylor, pleaded guilty to the charges and agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors. He claimed Vick supplied all the financing for Bad Newz Kennels, “Bad Newz” being street slang for the Virginia town of Newport Newz — er — News.

I know, I know: being a dog person, I’m predisposed to find any sort of dog fighting gruesome and inhumane; and I’m not exactly a fan of either football or the brothers Vick. But what is even more disturbing is that for the first time I find myself in agreement with PETA.

Prosecutors have indicted Vick and three other men for running the kennels as a dog fighting operation, training Pit Bulls (a generic term for several breeds of dogs, including the American Pit Bull Terrier) for fighting and conducting the business over state lines. The charges don’t touch on the unconscionable treatment of the dogs nor the cruel ways the unprofitable were killed.

On MSNBC’s Tucker, PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman told Tucker Carlson that, if convicted, Vick should receive a sentence for each dog found inhumanely euthanized or injured on his property.

After all, if any euthanizing is going on, PETA wants to be the one to do it.

So I can’t help feeling the NFL’s hand was forced, and that if their wink-wink, nod-nod good ol’ boy network had held up, Vick would be blithely drinking his beer and enjoying the fights this weekend.

The NFL, the Falcons organization specifically, has a vested interest in Vick since, if released from his contract, the club will owe him for bonuses not yet paid to the tune of over $20 million dollars over two years. So I can somewhat understand if they were slow to express their outrage. But, I thought, surely even the most ardent Falcons fan wouldn’t want to see such a savage tradition continue in order to keep a winning quarterback, would they? I mean, who would defend this type of behavior*?

Evidently we are not as far along in the whole evolution process as we’d like to think.

*Lest you think Vick was providing these animals with an outlet for aggression that was born in them, one of the first “Pit Bulls” to become famous was Petey from The Little Rascals.

Share  Posted by Jeanne Jackson at 12:34 PM | Permalink

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