July 21, 2007
Dog lovers weigh in on Vick

Speaking of Michael Vick, the folks in town for the 30th annual Reliant Park World Series of Dog Shows let him have it.

Former University of Houston football player Chris Tucker, a longtime dog trainer, called Vick "an idiot."

"What was he thinking?" Tucker asked. "The man had the world in the palm of his hand, and he gets involved in an activity like dogfighting?"

"The cruelty issue turns my stomach. I just can't believe it. There's no excuse, no possible rationale," said Steve Fincher, who was behind the counter at the Invisible Fence Co.

Kim Lawrence -- holding a leash attached to her boxer, Frankie -- called the charges against Vick "disgusting." Lawrence was in charge of the Citizens for Animal Protection area.

"Putting two animals together and making one of them try to kill the other -- that's not sport," she said. "And, because of who he is, it's multiplied times 10. It's like he's lending his name to animal cruelty (by saying), 'Oh, look, you can grow up and be a professional sports star and kill animals, too.' It's gross."

Susan Vroom of Dallas, the American Kennel Club's top representative at the show and a trainer of dogs for 36 years, prefaced her comments by conceding, "Yes, Michael Vick is innocent until proven guilty."

She added without hesitation, however, that if he's convicted, he should be treated "like it was second-degree murder."

"Bear in mind you're talking to a dog person here. But I could not have been more devastated if I'd been told he was involved in trafficking in young children," she said. "No, I'm not nuts. I'm able to differentiate between humans and animals, but I still equate the two. I really see no difference. If you would electrocute a dog (one of the allegations against Vick), what would stop you from beating a child?"

The dogs' subservient status makes the fights heinous, said Tom Pincus, the Houston Kennel Club's president.

"The animal can't defend itself," Pincus said. "It can't quit or leave home. It can't pick up the phone and call the police or dial 911. I think it's worse than the Pacman Jones situation. If he's found guilty, he should suffer similar, if not greater, consequences."

If that attitude is at all prevalent, then the NFL is going to be in a really tough spot. Right now, they're holding off on taking action until the legal system goes through its motions, but as more information comes to light - especially if some of the other folks charged in this atrocity agree to plea deals and start talking to the press - there's going to be a lot of pressure to act swiftly. I certainly wouldn't bet on Vick finishing the season on the Falcons' active roster, and at this point I'd need some odds before I'd take a bet on him starting the season.

This is the closest anyone came to defending Vick:

J.T. Thomas -- representing the event's sponsor, pet food maker Eukanuba -- offered a tempered viewpoint. It's because of Vick's own background -- suggested Thomas, a younger brother of the 1960s-era Oilers cornerback W.K. Hicks -- that people should attempt to understand how the former Virginia Tech star could have become involved.

"Once upon a time dogfighting, just like cockfighting, used to be a part of the fabric of America," said Thomas, of Pasadena. "Just like with a lot of other things, loopholes have been closed. It sometimes takes people awhile to understand what you used to do and what you can do now aren't always one in the same. Sometimes you have to learn this the hard way, and that's happening with him. This was not murder. This was not a capital crime. This was, possibly, a bad error in judgment. We can make a federal case out of it if we want to, but whatever happened, we have to let justice take its course. (Vick's) argument is that he was not knowledgeable about what was going on.

"I myself am a man of color. But, if a man is wrong, he's wrong. I'm not going to jump on his bandwagon because he's Michael Vick. It's unfortunate people in America tend to worship success and don't always realize that just because someone is successful financially they may not be successful morally, socially or spiritually."

It'll be interesting to see if any there's any organized constituency that comes out in defense of Vick. I'm not talking about his lawyers, or his teammates, or random fans like the guy in the photo for this story. I mean a public figure, someone with a following - a politician, a civil rights leader, a businessperson - who stands by Vick and goes on the record supporting him and attacking the charges against him. For the time being at least, Vick shouldn't count on the companies with whom he has endorsement deals for much.

Nike has told retailers it will not release a fifth signature shoe, the Air Zoom Vick V, this summer. Nike spokesman Dean Stoyer said the four shoe products and three shirts that currently bear Vick's name will remain in stores.


Stoyer said Nike still has a standing contract with Vick, but declined to speculate on his future with the company.

A statement released by Nike Inc. said the company "is concerned by the serious and highly disturbing allegations made against Michael Vick, and we consider any cruelty to animals inhumane and abhorrent. We do believe that Michael Vick should be afforded the same due process as any citizen; therefore, we have not terminated our relationship."

Stoyer, who declined to discuss terms of Vick's contract, indicated the company has no commercials or documentaries planned with the three-time NFL Pro Bowl selection.

In previous years, Nike has run footage and interviews with Vick on its Web site, but none of the video promotions are currently posted.

"Some of that was shown on a limited run based on rights and usage," Stoyer said. "There's nothing new planned."

That answers John Lopez's question, at least. That also may be the last we see of Vick on TV, outside of a Falcons game and maybe CNN, for awhile.

Unlike our helicopter-borne moose-shooter, there's no question about the value of the feds pursuing a case against Michael Vick. But as with that, I hope that at the very least, Vick comes away from this with a heaping helping of shame, both self-induced and imposed on him by the public. Whether he is ever convicted of any of these charges or not, he's going to have to do a hell of a lot if he ever hopes to rehabilitate his public image.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on July 21, 2007 to Other sports

What Michael Vick had done is inexcusable. I was horrified when I read the indictment. I have heard the 'innocent until proven guilty' cop out until I could scream. There is no way this man did not know what was going on in that house, not to mention the cost of running such an operation was far beyond the means of the druggie cousin who lived in the house (who Michael Vick threw under the bus btw)

Considering that Michael Vick had the financial means to take up whatever hobby or pastime he might have chosen, the fact that he chose this is absolutely disturbing. He didn't need the money such a venture may have brought him, he obviously particpated because he enjoyed it, and that says alot about Michael Vick. Animal cruelty is a warning sign for several different mental disorders, and hopefully Michael will get some help for this when he is in prison.

When I consider how loving and loyal dogs are, how much they love their owners no matter what the owner does, and Michael repaid the adoration of his dogs in this manner, I can't think of a fate that could befall Michael Vick that would be too harsh.

Posted by: Marsha on July 21, 2007 12:31 PM

Actually, I'm a big fan of "innocent until proven guilty". As a presumtion of the law, it can help prevent the little guy from being steamrollered by the government. You and I aren't required to think he's innocent, but it's reassuring to know that the government is supposed to prove wrongdoing before acting on it.

All I know about this case comes from blogs and news reports. I'm not really in a position to know if he's as guilty as he seems.

Posted by: Michael on July 22, 2007 3:35 PM