Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Dogfighting Stigma Still Sticks with QB Vick

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Dogfighting Stigma Still Sticks with QB Vick

Article excerpt

Michael Vick served 21 months in prison for his part in a dogfighting ring that operated for five years.

Eight years later, he's still not done paying for it.

Although the former Atlanta Falcons quarterback has already been given a second and third chance in the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles from 2009-13 and New York Jets last season, the announcement Tuesday that he signed a one-year contract as the Steelers' backup quarterback caused just as much outrage from fans as if it were still 2007.

A Facebook page created Tuesday morning called Pittsburghers Against Michael Vick already has more than 13,500 likes as of Wednesday evening. An online petition against the quarterback playing for the Steelers has more than 16,500 signatures. Statements from the Animal Rescue League Shelter and Wildlife Center as well as Animal Friends convey the organizations' disappointment in the Steelers.

This after the backup quarterback served his time, worked with the Humane Society of the United States to end dogfighting and tried to pass the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act in Congress.

"He has been stigmatized, no doubt about it," said Jack Levin, co-director of the Brudnick Center on Violence and Conflict at Northeastern University who has written many books and studies on sociology and criminology.

Mr. Levin co-wrote a study that found people have more empathy for dogs than for human adults, and he said that concern for what people see as vulnerable and helpless animals could be why the quarterback has been denounced by the "informal system," even though he has endured the consequences of the criminal justice system.

But there are, as always, two sides to the story. Although those against the quarterback have been active on social media and made an impromptu protest of about a half-dozen people at the Steelers' practice facility Wednesday afternoon, there are many in support of him and how he can help the team. One commenter on Facebook said, "He paid for his mistake, so doesn't he deserve to make a living like everybody else?"

"Those who are forgiving see Michael Vick as having paid the penalty, and they also may see him as remorseful, a man who understands that he did the wrong thing and won't do it again," Mr. …

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