When it was announced that Michael Vick had been signed by the Philadelphia Eagles, echoes of "Who Let the Dogs Out?" became popular again. Bigmouths on sports radio, proposed some new lyrics for the Eagles' fight song:
"Die, Fido, die…"
The auction site eBay offered Michael Vick chew toys for dogs.
Some fans threatened to cancel their prized and limited season tickets and others were standing in line, hoping they would follow through on their threat.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the animal rights group, made clear that it plans to continue hounding the pro quarterback.
"PETA and millions of decent football fans around the world are disappointed that the Eagles decided to sign a guy who hung dogs from trees. He electrocuted them with jumper cables and held them under water," PETA spokesman Dan Shannon told the Associated Press. There was no doubt that Vick's treatment of dogs was horrifying and I described such acts in detail in an Aug. 27, 2007 column.
But some so-called animal rights hypocrites remain critical of Vick while refusing to challenge state laws that provide licenses to those who hunt deer and other innocent animals. And the "animal rights" groups are not the only cowards.
As a nation, we like to say how much we believe in forgiveness and pat ourselves on the back for giving someone a second chance. In reality, however, there is a strong revenge streak that remains even after a person has paid for his or her offence.
Vick was the No. 1 draft pick in the 2001 draft. The Atlanta Falcons signed him to a 10-year, $130 million contract, making him the highest paid player in the league. After the dog fighting charges surfaced, Vick was banned indefinitely by the NFL and eventually filed for bankruptcy.
He was part of underground dog fighting ring in rural Virginia and pled guilty to running an operation that killed at least eight dogs that failed to do well in test fights. He decided to plead guilty after his three co-defenders had agreed to testify against him. Vick served a year and a half in federal prison. During that period, he was visited by Tony Dungy, the former coach of the Indianapolis Colts.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has conditionally reinstated Vick on July 27, meaning the earliest he can play in the preseason is Aug. 27.
The most inspiring part of the Vick saga is the role played by Eagle quarterback Donovan McNabb. He told ESPN.com, "I pretty much lobbied to get him here. I believe in second chances and what better place to get a second chance than here with this group of guys."
When was the last time you lobbied your company to hire someone who could possibly replace you?
And McNabb's enthusiasm rubbed off on Head Coach Andy Reid, who lobbied Team President Joe Banner and owner Jeffrey Lurie. The Eagles signed Vick to a two-year deal: $1.6 million and a second-year option worth $5.2 million, plus incentives that could total up to $3 over the two years of the contract.
Ironically, while the NFL is gradually bringing Vick back into acceptance, it has wasted no time exploiting his name. Even though Vick has yet to be fully reinstated, NFLShop.com is already selling replicates of Vick's Eagles jersey. As sports blogger Jeff Schultz notes, "The NFL is not ready for Vick to be the face of the league – but it is ready for Vick to be the face on the ledger."
Of course, the Eagles could have avoided an unneeded public controversy by staying away from Vick. While they don't go looking for controversy, they don't run from it. Don't forget that this was a team that took a chance on controversial wide receiver Terrell Owens.
Another bright spot is that the National Humane Society has been acting humanely. It has accepted Vick's offer to talk to youth about animal cruelty and will reserve judgment on whether's he's had a true change in heart.
Vick's interview with James Brown Sunday night on "60 Minutes" was largely designed to win over some doubters. It was largely successful. It was clear to me that he was well-trained on how to deal with hostile questions.
BROWN: And the operation, Michael, that you pleaded guilty to bankrolling, to being a part of, engaged in barbarous treatment of the animals -- beating them, shooting them, electrocuting them, drowning them. Horrific things, Michael.
VICK: It's wrong, man. I don't know how many times I gotta tell, I gotta say it. I mean, it was wrong. I feel, you know, I feel, you know, tremendous hurt behind what happened. And, you know, I should've took the initiative to stop it all. You know, and I didn't. And I feel so bad about that now. And I know, you know, that I didn't I didn't step up. I wasn't a leader.
BROWN: In any way, for those who may say it showed a lack of moral character because you didn't stop it, you agree or disagree?
VICK: I agree.
Vick has repeatedlt accepted fully responsibility, he has served his time in prison and is surrounded by talented people such as Tony Dungy. It's time for PETA and others to call off the dogs.
George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine and the NNPA News Service, is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. He can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com.