Monday, June 15, 2009

Deep Disappointment over Mr. Ruiz and that Michael Vick Thing

An article from one of my favorite animal-law lawyers and writers, writing as if we who object to Vick as Animal Welfare Spokesman, were trying to interfere with Sick-Vicks "right to work." He can work anywhere he wants with anyone who will have him and that will be "A-OK" with us, as long as he has nothing to do with animals or the animal rights and/or welfare movement.

Michael Vick and the right to work
June 14, 11:19 PM · 1 comment

Today, the Atlanta Falcons, who once called Michael Vick their franchise player, released him. Once earning $10MM a year, Mr. Vick is now reportedly earning $10/hour working as a construction worker while serving the last two months of his sentence on home confinement. Michael Vick was released from federal prison on May 20th after serving a two-year sentence for operating and bankrolling a dog fighting ring out one of his six homes.

Mr. Vick was born in 1980 to unwed teen-aged parents in the Ridley Circle housing project of Newport News (VA), also nicknamed “Bad Newz”, where he also grew hup. By his own admission, he was exposed to dog fighting at an early age. The influence of the drug- and violence-ridden environment followed Mr. Vick as he accumulated greater wealth.

Regardless, as early as high school, he became known for his running and passing abilities and earned a scholarship to attend Virginia Tech. In 1999, he set a NCAA record for passing efficiency by a freshman and won several awards. The same year, he also set a record by placing third on the balloting for the Heisman Trophy. In 2001, Mr. Vick was drafted first overall by the Falcons, the first African-American quarterback selected in the number one spot in the NFL draft. At the time, he received an unprecedented $3MM signing bonus. In 2004, Mr. Vick signed a 10-year $130MM contract with the Falcons, receiving a $20MM signing bonus. Throughout his career, Mr. Vick reportedly continued to head back “home” and socialize with friends connected to the old neighborhood at almost every opportunity. When he was arrested, Mr. Vick ranked third among quarterbacks in rushing yards.

Michael Vick led the Falcons to the NFC Championship game in 2005, and played in three Pro Bowls. He also holds several NFL records but still needs to apply for reinstatement from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell who has not commented on whether such a request would be granted.

In 2007, Mr. Vick, who is a registered dog breeder, was identified as the ‘key figure” of an extensive dog fighting ring, named the Bad Newz Kennels, leading to state and federal felony charges of dog fighting. In addition, Mr. Vick was accused of killing dogs who underperformed by hanging, drowning, electrocution, or slamming them to the ground. This led to charges of animal cruelty. In August 2007, he entered into a plea agreement and was suspended from the NFL. In December 2007, he was sentenced to 23 months in federal prison, and 3 years probation. The maximum sentence was 5 years in prison. A 3-year sentence in the state penitentiary was suspended upon condition of good behavior. Mr. Vick also paid $1MM in penalties for the care and rehabilitation of some 60 dogs which were removed from his property at the time of his arrest.

In October 2007, an arbitrator ruled that Mr. Vick had to reimburse $19.97MM of the signing bonus agreeing with the Falcons that he knew he was involved in illegal activities when he signed his new contract in 2004. In July 2008, Mr. Vick filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection showing liabilities of $20.5MM and assets of $16MM.

Some other NFL players saw nothing wrong with Vick’s dog fighting activities. For example, Washington Redskins’ star running back Clinton Portis was quoted as saying:

I don’t know if he was fighting dogs or not [sic], but it’s his property, his dog, if that’s what he wants to do, do it. If it’s behind closed doors, it’s ok.”

Mr. Portis further stated that, if Mr. Vick was charged and convicted then he would be put “behind bars for no reason.” We can only hope that Mr. Portis does not feel the same way about other types of felonies such as rape and homicides.

Three former NFL players have also been associated with pit bull fighting including LeShon Johnson, who was twice convicted on dog fighting charges. Other sports figures, such as NBA Qyntel Woods, have also been arrested for dog fighting. Boxer Roy Jones Jr. is a known cockfighter.

I, for one, think we should give Mr. Vick our thanks for shining the light on dog fighting which, regrettably, is more common than we would like to believe. In fact, if Mr. Vick is truly remorseful for his conduct, he could become a powerful spokesperson for the Humane Society of the United States with which he has agreed to work. Indubitably, many adults and children are still fans of Mr. Vick and would be susceptible to whatever message he would endorse.

Either way, legally, Mr. Vick pleaded guilty, has paid his dues to society according to the laws, and has a right to reintegrate society. Just like some of Mr. Vick’s fighting dogs were rehabilitated through the love and compassion of numerous dog lovers, one must believe that Mr. Vick can be rehabilitated. Excoriating him will teach him neither forgiveness nor love. After all, Vick has taught us that the mark of a person is in the kindness and compassion that lives in their heart and they show to the world.

The HSUS estimates that there are more than 40,000 “professional” dogfighters and some 100,000 less organized street dogfighters and offers a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of dogfighters. According to the HSUS, dog fighting, once a mostly rural “activity” in the South, has spread in recent years to America’s urban landscape coaxed along by rap videos, and embraced as a tough-guy imagery of hip hop pop culture.

Author: Jean-Pierre Ruiz

Christine A Jubic says:
I am deeply disappointed that Mr Ruiz would suport Sick-Vick as a spokesperson for animal welfare with ANY organization. He has NEVER once said he was sorry or showed ANY sign of remorse. RAY CHARLES could see through Vicks BS - why cant you? If Sick-Vick wants to rehabilitate himself let him do it (prove to the world he is sincere) on his own. He dosent need HSUS or anybody else to help him do it ---IF he is truely sincere. He owes the animal-loving world a public appology and we are still waiting for that.
June 15, 5:19 AM

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