The League

Dave Goldberg
Sports Reporter

Dave Goldberg

Covered the NFL for the AP for 25 years and now is a senior NFL writer for Fanhouse.com

Get over it

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Last August, I asked Marv Levy, the Hall of Fame coach and an animal rights activist, if he thought Roger Goodell was right in reinstating Michael Vick after 18 months in prison on dogfighting charges. His answer was a quick "yes.''

Now Vick has won the Eagles' version of the Ed Block Courage award, voted by each team to the player who exemplifies the principles of sportsmanship and courage. A lot of people wonder why, given Vick's history. PETA -- People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals -- called it "not appropriate.''

With all due respect to PETA, it's none of their business. Vick served his time -- more than he would have as a run-of-the-mill dogfighter because he is a famous athlete and PETA loudly made an example of him. I'm certainly not defending what he did -- I've been a dog owner for a long time, hate dogfighting and hate the fact that among his other transgressions was the killing of dogs.

But I also believe that people change. And just the fact that Vick's Philadelphia teammates would vote him this award tells me that he has won their acceptance. If that sounds like a no-brainer, consider that a senior executive with the Falcons told me a while back that Vick was a loner in Atlanta with few close friends on the team and less loyalty than players on most NFL teams give to their star quarterback.

Maybe this is bad public relations. Maybe his teammates didn't consider the ramifications of choosing Vick -- they aren't in the PR business.

But given what I know about his relationships in Atlanta, it tells me that Vick has changed to the extent that his teammates now respect him. It tells me that maybe his work for the Humane Society is sincere and not just another way to please Goodell and the NFL.

It also tells me it's time for PETA to butt out. The Vick case has given them more publicity than they've ever had -- I thought they piled on outrageously when Vick's crimes first became public. Other animal rights groups, while firm, were far less anxious to sell themselves every time anyone dared to speak about Vick in other than negative terms.

So let him enjoy this award. It's another step toward him rebuilding his life.

By Dave Goldberg  |  December 25, 2009; 9:09 AM ET  | Category:  Michael Vick , Philadelphia Eagles Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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I am the director of End Dogfighting in Milwaukee, a program that offers free pit bull training classes to at-risk youth to help them avoid the temptation to fight their dogs. For those of us who have first hand experience with the world of dogfighting, it's not that easy to just "get over it". Though I am not really a fan of PETA, I am certainly on their side. This award was originally given to a man who advocated on behalf of abused children, and it has now been given to a who who, for sheer joy and entertainment, murdered and tortured living things and exploited the loyalty of man's best friend.

The NFL has reinstated felons in the past, so there is certainly no reason for Vick to banned from football. Most felons however never have the opportunity to have a career again, and Vick has a multi-million dollar salary to look forward to.

I also need to point out that 18 months in prison is standard for dogfighting. Vick served no more time than any other non-famous dogfighter. In fact, there is a case right now in the south where the jury has recommended 10 years in prison. In comparison, Vick was treated like any other criminal.

It takes a specific kind of person to enjoy dogfighting and to revel in the atrocity. Psychology has proven without question that that behavior is directly linked to violence against human beings- if you can't respect an animal, how can you respect a person? For those of us who have seen the realities of dogfighting in person, we have doubts about what kind of changes really can take place.

Posted by: 06jkeidel | December 25, 2009 1:19 PM

I am actually a bit appalled at the arrogance of Goldbergs attitude. To think that any amount outrage at what Vick did was 'piled on outrageously' clearly reveals the shallow compassion of this writer. Yes, we get it, you think your sports games are more important than the behavior and inbreed attitudes that lead Vick to torturing and killing animals. Grown men smashing into each other while chasing a ball made from the skin of an animal that gave its life for this??
Spare us the shallow comparison, your just mad that PETA is infringing on your NFL players.

Posted by: amber8 | December 25, 2009 9:50 PM

PETA sucks, they're a pile of whack jobs on a good day. They do more to hurt animal rights than any other organization I've ever seen. They not only need to leave Vick alone, they need to shut up and go away until they learn some real ethics.

Posted by: Nymous | December 26, 2009 1:48 AM

Enjoyed and agree with the article.

I usually emphasize with PETA & have contributed to their causes in the past. And I was extremely outraged by Vick's pathological gangsta wannabe antics. But I believe when you do your time you do your time and that's it.

Vick has exhibited himself quite well since getting out of prison and should be congratulated for it. PETA's inability to acknowledge that is a comment on PETA, not Vick, and for them to fail to "live and let live" tells me there's another kind of pathology out there that's just as deplorable as the one created by a counter-culture mentality. And their excuse that they love animals so much that they "can't get over it" is far less viable than Vick's --i.e, that he allowed the wrong people to influence him.

It will be a while before I waste any more money on PETA. They need to grow up.

Posted by: ddutcher1 | December 26, 2009 5:21 AM

Vick's award is up to his teammates, and it isn't an award that even most sports fans would take notice of--except when brought to the attention of the general public by the likes of PETA. So once again, PETA has shown itself to be inept in its self-serving arrogance. If PETA is really worried about Vick being treated as a role model, they wouldn't worry about this award would have little impact on the general perception of Vick, but by making a big deal of it, PETA has led people to look into the rational behind the award and found that at least Vick's actions in the short time since being released from prison show a changed man. So the PETA has done more good for Vick's image than harm in this case.

It shouldn't surprise anyone that PETA seems unable to work out the consequences of their actions in their zeal to present themselves as keepers of moral surity (and so shares much with far-right conservatives and knee-jerk leftists). PETA, who seems driven my a romantic impulse to anthropomorphize animals (treat them as if they have the same emotional, physical, intellectual, and spiritual make-up as humans--as if all humans shared the same make-up), have very often not even taken the time to understand the animals that they supposedly care so much about. A few decades back PETA threw a fit that the last herd of free ranging American Bison in the nation on Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake didn't have any shelter to protect them from rain and snow and lightening (because of course if bison were people they would want such a shelter--as would many other kinds of animals). So after at great expense, Utah finally caved and built some shelters for the bison. Of course the herd has never made use of the shelters, because they are PRAIRIE ANIMALS who have evolved to deal with rain and snow out in the open. Of course if PETA had taken just a moment to do a little research on the actual behavior of this particular animal instead of pretending that they knew what was good for an animal becuase every animal would want what they wanted the would have known this.

I can respect positions that differ to a small or great degree with my own if it is intelligently thought through and presented. I have yet to see a PETA position that would fit that criteria.

Posted by: daviestad | December 27, 2009 1:50 PM

Seems to me that any PETA members who live in Philly, and whose taxes helped build Lincoln Financial Field, has more of a right to speak out than Goldberg does in telling them to shut up.

So Goldberg blathering about sports controversies, and making a paycheck off it is good and allowable, but PETA doing the same is somehow bad, and the organization should "butt out".

Hypocrisy much, Goldberg?

Posted by: kingcranky | December 27, 2009 4:47 PM

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