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Is Michael Vick a Psychopath?


In a fax dated today, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) President Ingrid E. Newkirk asked NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to take a hard look at Michael Vick's mental health before deciding whether to let him return to the NFL.

Vick, formerly a star quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons, was convicted of dogfighting conspiracy charges in August, 2007, and could be released from federal prison as early as this summer. While acknowledging that Vick "has apologized publicly and to me personally," Newkirk wrote that his behavior "seems to fit the established profile of antisocial personality disorder."

Those who suffer from the disorder are referred to as psychopaths "in the common parlance," Newkirk wrote, and their prognosis for recovery is poor. She asked the commissioner to have Vick submit to psychological testing in order to determine his condition before deciding whether to let him back into the league.

PETA had been working with Vick and the NFL, but earlier this week withdrew support for an anti-dogfighting Public Service Announcement that Vick was to star in. This decision appears to be in part a result of the USDA report released two months ago. The report, Newkirk wrote, is "so disturbing that it cannot be dismissed."

"When the report was released, the world already knew that Michael had electrocuted, strangled, drowned, and shot dogs (although it now seems that he used a variety of guns, as if that in itself were a sport)," she wrote in today's FAX. "The last USDA report also shows that Michael wanted losing dogs killed rather than given away and that he put family pets into the pit with the fighting dogs."

Psychopaths lack the ability to put themselves in their victims' place (i.e., to feel empathy), Newkirk noted, fail to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behavior, are frequently manipulative and charming, lie easily, take pleasure in the suffering of others, and have difficulty controlling their impulses. Moreover,, "Cruelty to animals is a well-established predictor of psychopathic behavior..."

Turning from psychiatry to merchandising, Newkirk suggested to Goodell that Vick "is not the kind of person who should be offered as a role model. Severe and repeated acts of cruelty to animals are, of course, not what football fans, particularly children, need to think about when they see a football star, or buy a jersey or an autographed picture. Michael's appalling acts of cruelty to animals will always be a part of his image. That will not go away."

So what do you think? Is Vick a psychopath? Should Roger Goodell force him to take the psychological exams, or has he served his time and now deserves a second chance? Let us know.

By Emil Steiner  |  January 23, 2009; 2:10 PM ET  | Category:  Michael Vick Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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PETA at its heart is an Extremist group with ties to Terrorists and if anyone is in need of psychological testing its Ingrid Newkirk. Better to work with the Humane Society or ASPCA.

Posted by: notthatdum | January 24, 2009 10:08 AM

PETA is an is just as wacky as Michael Vick. This is an organization that would deny medical treatment to humans in order to make mice feel better, a group that makes threats to the families of animal researchers (including their children) and shows up at their homes to scream and yell. Like Vick, PETA members have been convicted of crimes and jailed. Michael Vick should never be allowed to play in the NFL again, but that's because of what he did, not because of anything PETA might do or say.

Posted by: Bob22003 | January 24, 2009 11:06 AM

I wasn't aware that it was illegal or somehow disqualified one for employment in this country to be anti-social, or even a "psychopath ... in the common parlance" (!) as Newkirk so eloquently puts it. But I'm heartened to know that the standard for "mental health" in this country can be set unambiguously by a sports commissioner.

Posted by: dane1 | January 24, 2009 12:07 PM

Vick may be cruel and unrepentant; he may be dangereous to animals and humans - and the NFL may have sufficient objective evidence to justify barring him from playing again. But the NFL should simply base its decision on demonstrable facts. Vick should not have his livelyhood taken away on the basis of psychological testing for an ill-defined "disorder." Most mental and emotional "disorders" are promoted as being caused by brain defects -typically "chemical imbalances." No "mental illness" or "personality disorder" can be detected by any physical diagnostic test, because there is no known physical cause for any of them.

The NFL should stick to established facts, make reasoned inferences from those facts, and skip the false security of psychological testing and unreliable labels.

Posted by: pdwyer1 | January 24, 2009 4:19 PM

I do not know a lot about PETA, but it seems the organization is one that requires occasional celebrity cases to promote its cause and to keep itself in the news. It is slanderous for PETA to assert publicly that Michael Vick's "behavior seems to fit the established profile of antisocial personality disorder." The short story is, Mr. Vick's mental health is simply none of PETA's business.

I am concerned by the Post's question: "Is Vick a psychopath?" I ask rhetorically: What reader can answer this with any authority?

A more appropriate question might be: Should the Commissioner of the NFL allow Michael Vick the opportunity to resume his NFL career? This gets closer to the heart of whether "time served" in this circumstance should suffice. If Mr. Vick has violated an NFL ethics policy by his actions, then I think he's relinquished his privilege to play in the NFL.

Posted by: rmagritte | January 24, 2009 5:08 PM

Vick is a psychopath. He strangled and mangled dogs for his own joy. He took pleasure in torturing innocent animals. He laughed and maliciously lied for his own good only appearing contrite when he thought it was in his own best interest.

Q: What kind of man would do that?
A: A psychopath.

He should be in an asylum. Society has no cure and no place for such tragically sick individuals. And above all he should not be allowed to procreate. These genes must be irradicated.

Posted by: danmart44 | January 25, 2009 11:04 AM

Why is this garbage cluttering the pages of the Pst. Is the head of PETA a psychiatrist? Does the head of PETA have any qualifications or expertise to diagnose "pyschopathy"? No. Therefore this falls into the category of a vendetta pursuing political goals.

Posted by: wold | January 25, 2009 12:39 PM

danmart44

Yes and with your extreme crazy comments you make Vick look like a normal person. When do we start sending people to asylums and deciding if they should procreate in this country? This is the same country that idolizes gangsters, fictional and real life. We make movies about John Gotti, Al Capone and are facinated with scum like Charles Manson to the point that books are written about him but you think that Vick should be put in an asylum and not allow to have a family because he financed a dogfighting ring. What about cockfighters and hunters do they belong in asylums too? And will this stop dogfighting or just satisfy you envious need to see a celebrity or athlete that has more than you get punished and put in their place?

Posted by: ged0386 | January 26, 2009 5:24 PM

To echo an earlier statement, Michael Vick should never play football again not because PETA says so but because his actions are absolutely unforgivable. If he weren't an NFL quarterback, he would have been fired from whatever job he had and been lucky to be picking up trash for a living considering the incredible lack of conscience he has for other living things. Most people wouldn't treat carrots the way he treated dogs.
But with that being said, PETA isn't the decider here -- Goodell is. Hopefully he'll make the right decision on his own.

Posted by: jhheltman | January 29, 2009 2:19 PM

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