Hot off the press – another Sports Illustrated article on Michael Vick

When most people think of Sports Illustrated, they think of the famed annual Swimsuit edition. So when the December 2008 issue hit the newsstands, the double takes were understandable – yes, there was a girl on the cover but she was no bikini-clad beach beauty. Her name is Sweet Jasmine and she’s one of the 51 Pit Bulls seized in April 2007 as part of the notorious Michael Vick dog fighting ring bust. And what a beautiful dog she is! 35 pounds of lean muscle with a sweet face that would never hint at her tragic history.

And what a great article it was too, giving readers an updates on the the pit bulls that were rescued from Michael Vick’s Bad Newz Kennel. It reminded readers of what the dogs endured at the hands of Vick and his degenerate dog-fighting circle, and went some way towards addressing the anti-breed hype that the magazine itself admits to fueling with their provocative 1987 cover of a snarling pit bull below the headline BEWARE OF THIS DOG. SI conceded that the breed has an image problem – people think of Pit Bulls as vicious killers when in actual fact experts agree that, with training and proper socialization, Pit Bills make wonderful pets, in no small part because of their unparalleled ability to bond with people and their abiding loyalty. Unfortunately the Pit Bull’s greatest strength is also their Achilles heel – they will do ANYTHING for their human.

In that December article, the Michael Vick dogs were recast, hopefully helping to re-position their breed in the public eye – it is clear that they are no longer weapons, but are actually the victims in this scenario, and as such were entitled to the almost million dollar restitution paid out by Vick for their care and rehabilitation. The dogs’ high profile also ensured sufficient public outcry to save them from automatically being written off as a lost cause and euthanized at the time of their rescue.


Point After – Ethical Treatment For a Quarterback – Phil Taylor

SI.comToday a new issue of Sports Illustrated hits the newsstands, and Michael Vick once again features – this time, re-visiting Vick’s troubling story and the pending consideration of his reinstatement to the NFL in light of the fact that his sentence is almost fully served. 

The magazine’s senior writer Phil Taylor writes: “People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is looking for more than just the words of apology and remorse Vick has offered so far; he must prove that he is a changed man.… Says PETA spokesman Dan Shannon, ‘It’s not like this guy’s going back to laying brick. For better or worse, young people look up to well-known athletes as models of behavior. So, yes, it’s a little different from a guy who’s returning to a nine-to-five job.’ ”

Taylor continues: “Such is the unforgiving climate Vick faces. He has been brought to his knees, stripped of his freedom and fortune, and as satisfying as it might feel for some to see him like that, he has been down for as long as the law requires. It’s time to let him try to get back up. Vick’s return to the NFL shouldn’t require that we judge him to be fully redeemed; many of us never will. But we need to acknowledge that as with most other offenders who have fulfilled the terms of their punishment, he ought to be allowed to pursue his old career, if he’s still qualified for it.”

Taylor does make a good point – that Vick has served the terms of his lawful punishment and should be allowed to move on and earn a living doing what he’s qualified to do (play ball).  But the article misses another, equally important point by failing to acknowledge that Vick brought his current unfortunate circumstances on himself and that public vilification and abhorrence are inherent consequences of the unacceptable nature of his crime, particularly given the position of public trust that he violated. It’s true, many of us never will be fully redeemed of our past sins and shouldn’t be made to pay ad infinitum for them – but many of us aren’t public icons, and nor have we committed crimes of cold-blooded brutality.

So – does Vick need to demonstrate that he’s “fully redeemed” in order to play football? Not at all. But in order to be a respected role model in the community whose actions will impact the (physical and psychological) wellbeing of children and animals across the country? Heck yes!

Every other celebrity criminal deals with the scrutiny of the public long after they serve their time – Vick will have to do the same.  And if it takes “possible PETA protests” or a “media maelstrom and the disgust of potential ticket buyers” to motivate him to demonstrate his redemption then so be it. Vick may or may not be qualified to play NFL football, but in this blogger’s opinion, he has not yet demonstrated that he meets the bar to be the public role model such a career involves. Once he does, then by all means give him a hand up and let him take the stage once more as a superstar.

Taylor closes his article by pondering, “Perhaps the real change in Vick will come when he finds that the creatures he once treated so cruelly…, are now far more accepting of him than are most humans.” Yes, we the animal-loving public need to take a leaf of forgiveness and acceptance from the book of our canine companions – but the quid pro quo is that unlike dogs, we humans can (should) hold each other accountable for our behavior and, in this case, our forgiveness is entirely conditional on Vick having learned a different lesson from the animals: one of humanity.


Read this week’s full Sports Illustrated article online:

Read the full December 2008 SI article online:

Link to the December 2008 SI cover:

The Infamous 1987 SI cover:

To support animal-care groups cited in the December article, go to their respective websites:,, and
Ten of Vick’s pit bulls were taken to the BAD RAP rescue group in Northern California.  BAD RAP chronicles their progress on the charming and frequently-updated Vick Dogs Blog.


Blogged by UrbanCritter


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