Here’s a culture clash for you: If you’d never before heard of convicted dog torturer Michael Vick, who just joined the Kansas City Chiefs as a coaching intern, you would not have gotten any hint from the reaction in the sports world to his arrival here that this was anything other than a wildly exciting turn of events.
Let’s just say we don’t see it that way.
We don’t understand how thinking it was highly entertaining to watch trained pit bulls fatally attack family pets at his appropriately named Virginia dogfighting operation, the Bad Newz Kennels, might make the former star pro quarterback just the right guy to mentor and mold other football players.
The team’s website ran a good-news piece headlined, “Andy Reid on Michael Vick Helping at Camp: ‘He Brings That Respect.’” Really, guys? He also brings a rap sheet, and played for Reid, the Chiefs’ coach, in Philadelphia after his release from federal prison in 2009.
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True, the man has served his time. But Vick’s actions were so monstrously cruel that we can’t agree that, as one Chiefs fan unironically put it on the team’s Facebook page, critics should “stop beating a dead horse.”
To review, according to a 2008 U.S. Department of Agriculture report on Vick’s dogfighting operation, he and his two co-defendants “thought it was funny to watch the pit bull dogs belonging to Bad Newz Kennels injure or kill the other dogs.” And this wasn’t just a passive pastime for Vick. He personally hanged, electrocuted and drowned dogs, attaching jumper cables to some under-performers and then tossing them into a swimming pool to electrocute them.
According to the USDA report, he and the others “hung approximately three dogs who did not perform well … by placing a nylon cord over a 2x4 that was nailed to two trees located next to the big shed. They also drowned approximately three dogs by putting the dogs’ heads in a five-gallon bucket of water.”
Vick was once the highest paid player in the NFL, and the report notes that he didn’t like to bury the dead animals himself because he didn’t want to do anything to jeopardize his career.
Even after he was caught, he lied about what he had done, and only after failing a polygraph test “admitted taking part in the actual hanging of the dogs.”
Since his release from Leavenworth, Vick has spoken out against animal abuse for the Humane Society, has gotten his Nike endorsement back and in the last couple of years coached high school football. Maybe his turnaround is completely sincere.
Yet his arrival here, as a Bill Walsh Minority Fellowship coaching intern, is hardly the unalloyed coup that Reid thinks it is.
“Like a lot of players, when they get done playing, they are searching for different things to do with their professional life,” the coach said. “He has a ton of routes he could go, but he had an interest in coaching so I invited him up here and said, ‘Give it a try, see what you think and see if you like it.’ ” Vick is not like a lot of retired players, is he?