Dear Mr. Vick, You are no role model.

Perhaps I lived a privileged life.  My parents raised me to care for and protect the weak.  From all the dogs and cats we rescued to my little sister who lost her life at a young age, my parents raised me that ‘if they can’t fight for themselves then step up and fight for them.’  I lived my life like that back then and I still live my life like that today.  And now at 32 years old, I still cannot bring myself to understand all the cruelty in the world.  I cannot understand how people find amusement out of tormenting, abusing and killing the weak….and in this particular case, animals.   The thought sickens me to the core.

I recently read that there are YouTube videos of dog fighting rings but I have yet to research and confirm it because (a.) I’m partly in denial that it’s true.  Why would YouTube allow videos of felonies being committed? and (b.) if it is true, I don’t want to see it.  I can already picture a glimpse in my head and don’t need to see the actual acts.  The USDA recently released the court documents detailing the evidence against Vick – thanks to the Freedom of Information Act.  Although requested from various news outlets and rescue organizations after Vick was sentenced, the USDA finally released the docs last week.  Finally.  In reading the documents, I honestly couldn’t get past the 1st of 17 pages.  I was too sick to my stomach and tears already started to form in my eyes.  Actually, just pictures and footage of Vick alone make me sick to my stomach.  Once the first pieces of media coverage came out about him before his conviction, I immediately acquired an aversion to his name and face.  Knowing that this man tortured and killed dogs out of amusement, served his prison sentence and is now back to making millions makes me sick.  Although his conviction was for operating a dog fighting ring for 5 years, Vick admitted to growing up around it and was “exposed” to it for the first time at the age of 8.  Vick’s actions were not from a momentary lack of judgment.  His actions continued over years and years and the only reason why it all stopped was because he was caught.  He. Was. Caught.

Vick’s 23-month sentence (2 of which were home confinement) was completed last July and within 30 days was already back in the NFL and signed a 2-year contract with the Philadelphia Eagles: $1.6 million for 2009 and, according to ESPN Sports News, “$5.25 million for the 2010 season if he remains with the Eagles, including a $1.5 million roster bonus due by March 5. Once paid, it is counted as money earned. In addition to the bonus, Vick’s base salary in 2010 is $3.75 million, of which $1 million is guaranteed.”  Wow.  That’s a lot of money for an ex-convict.  A 7-figure salary immediately after his re-entry into society.   Quite unlikely for Joe the Plumber, if you ask me.  But I forgot that he’s a ‘talented professional athlete’.   Obviously talent and power win over ethics.  If a successful and talented neurosurgeon committed the same crime and served their sentence, would they be welcomed back into their profession the same way?  Probably not.  But in Vick’s case, he’s athletically gifted and therefore still a moneymaker to any football club that wants him.  Jeffrey Lurie, owner of the Eagles and considered one of the most powerful owners of US football clubs, and Eagles head coach, Andy Reid, decided to take a chance on him.  Even former NFL coach Tony Dungy backed them up on their decision.  Add to that list the Rev. Jesse Jackson and it definitely sounds like, as Howard Bryant (ESPN writer) so eloquently put it, ‘the powerful protecting the powerful.’

One would argue that any other professional such as a plumber, bricklayer, teacher, lawyer, or doctor is not held in the same regard as a professional athlete.  Well it should be…especially since all, if not most, professional athletes are automatically thrust into being role models, whether they like it or not.  More children want to “Be Like Mike” than ‘be like Dr. Smith’ (no offense to any Dr. Smiths).  My own nephews dream of being soccer players when they grow up and so I pray that they will find a respectable athlete who will set an exceptional example both on and off the field.  Any person who chooses to be in the public eye should do so with the understanding that children are watching and imitating.  And if no professional athlete wants to accept it then the responsibility and accountability rests with the parents.  If children aren’t learning outside of the home then they should be learning inside the home and vice versa.  In a recent case in Florida, a mother turned in her 10 and 12 year old sons to the cops for organizing a dog fighting ring (because they saw it on YouTube).   When interviewed why she wanted her own children in jail, she said they needed to learn a lesson and get set straight.  We need more moms like her.  Of course the most ideal situation is children learning in all aspects of their lives but let’s face it:  It’s not a perfect world.   Vick and I are 2 years apart in age and millions of dollars apart in salary and yet he’s the ex-convict who blames his actions on his upbringing.

Now before I begin receiving hate mail from Vick Supporters, I do have to point out that although Vick did file for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy, the courts rejected the claim and so a good portion of his salary goes to his creditors since his debt exceeds income.  Vick also has partnered with the Humane Society of the United States as an advocate against dog fighting.  To assure his true sincerity for animals and regrets of his past actions, the HSUS contracted him for up to 4 years.  Basically, they wanted to make sure that he just wasn’t faking in order to get back into the good graces of the NFL and his former sponsors.   We’ll see.  Vick originally approached PETA for the same “deal” but PETA wisely declined since they didn’t want to be associated with him whatsoever, regardless if he already paid his legal debt to society…and I stress legal.  His moral and social debts are still in question.

I was told to “Move on.  He did the crime and he did the time.  Move on”.  However, I cannot and I will not.  I cannot stand idly by while a professional athlete/millionaire turned convict goes back to making millions.  My Christian self would say to forgive.  If 48 of Vick’s dogs can be successfully rehabilitated then so can Vick.  But then my true self would say “he hasn’t earned it yet”.  What about the 8 (documented) dogs Vick admitted to executing violently over 5 years and the 1 dog that had to be euthanized because it was deemed unfit for rehabilitation?  Should Vick be given a second chance like his rehabilitated dogs or be subjected to the same cruelty he inflicted on his dogs: death by hanging or drowning?  You decide.  I think it’s clear what my decision would be.  Vick killed dogs in so many despicable ways for being weak and performing below his standards.  Perhaps the NFL should do the same if he performs below their expectations.  Just a thought.

Time will only tell with Vick’s true intentions of wanting to be an advocate against dog fighting. Quite honestly, it’s laughable.  It’s like a felon convicted of multiple counts of rape against women wanting to be an advocate for women’s rights.   Really?  Vick is a professional football player deeply in debt financially, socially, and morally.  His legal and professional debts are already covered.  He completed his sentence.  Check.  He’s back in the NFL.  Check.  Now he needs to pay his bills like everyone else and so it’s safe to assume he’ll do and say whatever to do so.  However, to claim to be rehabilitated and a changed man after 23months just screams shadiness to me.   The man grew up around it.  The people who raised and were responsible for him exposed him to the crime.  That’s 20+ years versus 23 months.  Who were his role models?  You go ahead and digest that for a bit.

I believe my parents did a tremendous job in raising me.  I am blessed that they taught me to protect and care for the weak as well as respect the law.  So many people and children aren’t so lucky and veer off onto the wrong path.  Perhaps they were lacking true role models in their lives or emulated the wrong role model.  Who knows?  I just know that I love my dogs.  Past and present.  When I am happy, they are happier.  When I am sad and crying, they lick my tears away.  When I am angry, they want to cuddle.  As long as I show them love, the love is returned.  When I have children, I will try my damndest to protect them from people like Vick.  I will teach them to treat animals humanely and that both money and power will not buy respect and status.  Actions do.

~Annette~

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