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Ultimately, there is no separating Vick from his circumstances: his race, parents, economics and opportunities.
August 25, 2011 11:32 AM   Subscribe

What if Michael Vick were white? The cover of the September issue of ESPN The Magazine features an image of the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback, but another picture might end up getting more attention.

Vick has resurrected his career in Philadelphia after acts of horrific animal abuse left him hated and contributed to the loss of his freedom for two years and most of his wealth.

His story of redemption as a player and a person has impressed some but continues to disgust others. His problems with money should soon be over as negotiations for a potentially huge new contract with the Eagles continue and Nike has signed on for a new endorsement deal.
posted by furiousxgeorge (171 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
What if Michael Vick were white?

He would be made entirely out of vinyl, apparently.
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:35 AM on August 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


Tim Tebow with a goatee. As a charter member of the Tebow Hater's Club, I approve.
posted by Dr. Zira at 11:35 AM on August 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


getting more attention
And I am sure that they do not want to be thrown in that briar patch.
posted by Wolfdog at 11:36 AM on August 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


What a bullshit article. At some point, personal responsibility needs to be acknowledged. The article essentially says that his upbringing is responsible for his troubles. Perhaps to a degree, but most people, even the poor and unprivileged, know that it's wrong to abuse animals.
posted by explosion at 11:40 AM on August 25, 2011 [20 favorites]


Wow, I hope that skin color is the result of a miscommunication in the art department.

Send attachment vick.jpg

"Hey, we need you to make this picture of Michael Vick white."
"What, you mean take out the background?"
"No, we need you to make him white."
"White like the color?"
"Yeah, white like the color. Make his skin white."
"...uh, okay."

Open attachment vick_white.jpg

"What the hell did you do?"
"I made him white, like you asked."
"No, we wanted him white, not white."
"He's white! Look! #FFFFFF!"
"Goddammit this thing goes to print in an hour and he looks like a plaster cast. Can you liven him up a bit? Throw some red in there or something?"
"Red like the color?"
"$*(#%&^(%"
posted by griphus at 11:41 AM on August 25, 2011 [21 favorites]


That Fleming essay (under 'disgust others'), which touches on some larger issues about Americans' relationships with animals, is pretty good, especially for ESPN.
posted by box at 11:42 AM on August 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


He has also made statements recently that he "misses his companions" regarding not having dogs as pets. He claims that he didn't have the opportunities that others had growing up. And race doesn't come into play one f*cking bit when it comes to animal abuse. He was making plenty of money, surrounded by every opportunity, when he was abusing and torturing animals. His companions. Two years and "most of his wealth" is a drop in the bucket of what he deserves in my opinions. The redemption just proves again that as long as he continues to play well as an athlete, we're willing to forgive that he's probably a sociopath.
posted by librarianamy at 11:43 AM on August 25, 2011 [12 favorites]


What a bullshit article. At some point, personal responsibility needs to be acknowledged. The article essentially says that his upbringing is responsible for his troubles. Perhaps to a degree, but most people, even the poor and unprivileged, know that it's wrong to abuse animals.

Thank you, I couldn't have said this better myself.
posted by Dr. Zira at 11:44 AM on August 25, 2011


Brian Austin Green?
posted by SpiffyRob at 11:46 AM on August 25, 2011 [16 favorites]


This is lame, even for ESPN. I think I'd like to see Piers Morgan do a show about this, though.
posted by Kokopuff at 11:47 AM on August 25, 2011


For anyone keeping the score, it looks like Metafilter thinks:

Crimes committed by rich white people: Always bad
Crimes committed by poor black people against other people: Excused by poverty, etc.
Crimes committed by poor black people against animals: The worst thing

Just so everyone knows where they're supposed to stand.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:48 AM on August 25, 2011 [18 favorites]


Love the article's comment: "Somewhere, Michael Jackson is pissed"
posted by RolandOfEld at 11:50 AM on August 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Dogs. People LOVE dogs. Prince William would have gone to jail for this.
posted by solmyjuice at 11:52 AM on August 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


Terse blanket statements involving race made on behalf of others: Still stupid, etc.
posted by griphus at 11:52 AM on August 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


Don't discount the upbringing - he is from "the 757". Although I am a proud native of Hampton Roads (area code 757, called "the 757" in sports circles), we have turned out more than our fair share of troubled/troublemaker athletes:

Michael Vick
Marcus Vick
Allen Iverson
Plaxico Burress
...
posted by Benny Andajetz at 11:52 AM on August 25, 2011


I hate this stupid article, and the stupid question it leads with. He looks like Casper the ghost.

Are we supposed to think, Oh maybe if he was white he wouldn't have abused animals? I don't really know why black QB's are rare so I'm probably missing a lot. Why are we supposed to believe that good athlete = good person? These athletes are penalized but still end up on a pedestal and essentially get rewarded with more money, and a bullshit redemption arc.

He's a dumb fuck at minimum - lacking in many areas except for athletic ability.
posted by mokeydraws at 11:53 AM on August 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


The narrative around Michael Vick is my litmus test for whether Americans view people who commit crime as criminals forever or people capable of reintegration into society, into their old jobs, capable of redemption.

It appears to me that most Americans think once a criminal, always a criminal.

That's really depressing to me.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 11:54 AM on August 25, 2011 [44 favorites]


Mike Vick is a superior football player and so lots of people give him a free pass.

Off the field he has been guilty of some reprehensible shit, and has engaged some top spin doctors to manage his "brand", and to try and create sympathy for him with a heart tugging reality tv show.

He also lines up to endorse magic bracelets and scientific sports drinks, both which seem like snake oil to me. He's a rich jock who is happy to take sports fan's money.
posted by KS at 11:54 AM on August 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Dogs. People LOVE dogs. Prince William would have gone to jail for this

I agree. I can't imagine the public reaction would have been half as bad if he had been busted for cockfighting.
posted by Hoopo at 11:56 AM on August 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Perhaps to a degree, but most people, even the poor and unprivileged, know that it's wrong to abuse animals.

The article is not about assessing Vick's culpability, not really. It's not even about race relations in modern-day America.

Here, ESPN is about fans finding ways to cheer him on, without feeling guilty about cheering on someone involved with torturing animals.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:56 AM on August 25, 2011 [6 favorites]


Bulgarocktonos - where are you seeing that?

If anything, I will speak for myself:

Crimes committed by people against animals: The worst thing
Crimes committed by athletes: Eh, forgiveable as long as they can still play
posted by mokeydraws at 11:57 AM on August 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


And race doesn't come into play one f*cking bit when it comes to animal abuse.

Sure it does. Or maybe so we don't descend into semantics, we can say that when the news came out, and likely even now, the responses from many black people is closer to apathy, while the response from many white people is closer to furious anger.
posted by cashman at 11:57 AM on August 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


I agree. I can't imagine the public reaction would have been half as bad if he had been busted for cockfighting.

Not if it was in the locker room.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 11:57 AM on August 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


...but most people, even the poor and unprivileged, know that it's wrong to abuse animals.

Do you eat meat?

I could write something, but Singer says it kinder than I could in the disgusts others link:

"People should look at what they're eating and what they're spending their dollars on and what kind of animal abuse they themselves are supporting," says Singer. "And if they haven't taken a good look at that, I don't think they have much right to criticize Vick."

"The American population may not be guilty of carrying it out with their own hands as Vick did," says Singer. "But it's certainly guilty of supporting animal cruelty through their purchases. It's not any worse to make a dog suffer than to make a pig or a chicken or a cow suffer. If you look at factory farms and if you support them, you can't say 'Vick made animals suffer and I don't.'"
posted by trueluk at 11:57 AM on August 25, 2011 [19 favorites]


I had no idea who he was when I clicked the link on the front page, and originally thought he was a badly made character for a computer game.
posted by marienbad at 11:58 AM on August 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Michael Vick is a fascinating story for as long as he continues to perform at a very high level in the most popular and profitable sport in the world. Given the career-life-expectancy of running quarterbacks this will more likely be months than years and then we can all forget about it until the next time a football star gets busted for dogfighting.

I am glad I am not an Eagles fan.
posted by bukvich at 12:01 PM on August 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Toure had nothing to do with the illustration and he doesn't like it either. It distracts from the point he is trying to make; namely that a White Michael Vick would not be Michael Vick. With this I agree.
posted by Renoroc at 12:05 PM on August 25, 2011


There's some more information on his upbringing in this ESPN article, which incorporates football history and talks about how Vick has revolutionized the QB position.
IN THE COURTYARD outside Unit 667, Michael Vick's childhood home in the notorious Ridley Circle housing project of Newport News, Va., residents remain tortured by any number of inaccessible escape routes. Buses roar past on Ivy Avenue without stopping. The sky is filled with jets leaving Norfolk Airport. A nearby canal used by fishing boats to reach Chesapeake Bay is protected by barbed wire and no-trespassing signs. Even spiritual escape appears unavailable: Access to the abandoned Zion Church, a block over on Marshall Avenue, has been blocked by a long 2-by-4 nailed haphazardly across the ornate doors of the sanctuary.

Ridley's collection of narrow two-story buildings, each packed with eight units, has been painted light blue over the original brown. There's less grass, replaced by mostly sand and dirt, cigarette butts, bottle caps and broken shards of glass that sparkle in the sunlight. Other than that, the Circle remains nearly identical to the place where an 8-year-old Vick first picked up a football with escape on his mind and, instead, started a revolution.

Behind each Ridley unit are cement patios where, Vick says, the drunks and old-timers would hang out. When he needed cash, Vick would wander into the courtyard, football in hand, and bet the men that he could throw the pigskin over any one of the 120-foot-long buildings they chose. They would laugh, right up until the football left his hand.
posted by cashman at 12:05 PM on August 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


It appears to me that most Americans think once a criminal, always a criminal.

For me it isn't that he committed a crime, it's that someone capable of doing what he did over and over again means there is something really frightening about him.

This wasn't "I robbed people and now I realize how badly that fucked them up and I'm really distraught over it now and am working to make sure other people know how much it damages everyone."

And this wasn't "I'm producing a product and the chickens are just cogs to be disembled" (not that that's great either).

This was deliberate and prolonged torture of singled out animals over and over again. There is something really wrong with the guy and it would take a lot work on his part for me to think he's changed so fundamentally.

I'm not really a dog person but for me some of the horror in it is that dogs are far better able to communicate with humans than any other animal I know of, through body language and verbalization, and STILL he was able to torture them for entertainment, despite (because of) their obvious distress and anguish. I am not even talking about the dog fighting- I'm talking about the torture he did on his off hours to dogs that were underperforming or who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

A chicken maybe a person could convince themselves didn't feel pain in the same way, since they don't have facial expressions etc that dogs and humans have, but dogs? No way.
posted by small_ruminant at 12:06 PM on August 25, 2011 [8 favorites]


I agree. I can't imagine the public reaction would have been half as bad if he had been busted for cockfighting

Hell,cockfighting was legal in louisiana until 2008.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:06 PM on August 25, 2011


"They let a white lady shoot a Moose, but when a black guy kills a dog, it's a crime". Chris Rock on the difference between Sarah Palin and Michael Vick.
posted by photoslob at 12:07 PM on August 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


Mike Vick is a superior football player and so lots of people give him a free pass.

Free pass? The man spent 21 months in prison. I'm fine if people say they will never forgive him, I'm fine (although I disagree) if people say he should never be allowed to play professional football, but the notion that two years of your life completely destroyed (in a profession where careers over a decade are rare) is a "free pass" is a peculiar notion that is probably why the United States has an incarceration rate wildly out of line with the rest of the developed world.

I'd ask a question. You clearly don't believe any of his post-incarceration behavior indicates any actual remorse, it's just "spin doctors" and "snake oil." Is there anything concrete he actually could have done to convince you otherwise?
posted by dsfan at 12:07 PM on August 25, 2011 [12 favorites]


most popular and profitable sport in the world.

Profitable yes, popular? I think soccer has American football beat in that regards.
posted by edgeways at 12:08 PM on August 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


What if Michael Vick was.... an actual eagle?
posted by norm at 12:10 PM on August 25, 2011 [32 favorites]


Dognitive dissonance.
posted by joe lisboa at 12:10 PM on August 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


"My favorite thing about Michael Vick is that he allows me to mask my racism with an over-inflated love of dogs." - Lots of people
posted by acyeager at 12:11 PM on August 25, 2011 [11 favorites]


"For anyone keeping the score, it looks like Metafilter thinks:

Crimes committed by rich white people: Always bad
Crimes committed by poor black people against other people: Excused by poverty, etc.
Crimes committed by poor black people against animals: The worst thing

Just so everyone knows where they're supposed to stand.
"

Man, why do you like dog fighting so much? I mean, as long as we're going with intentional misreadings based on an insulting bias.

Also, you forgot how contrarians will endorse anything that liberals get upset about, but then, I've already asked you why you like dogfighting.
posted by klangklangston at 12:11 PM on August 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


"They let a white lady shoot hang a Moose around the neck by nylon cord, electrocute it in a swimming pool, drown it in a 10 gallon bucket, sic tigers on them for fun..." now we're getting close.
posted by small_ruminant at 12:12 PM on August 25, 2011 [10 favorites]


For anyone keeping the score, it looks like Metafilter thinks:

Crimes committed by rich white people: Always bad
Crimes committed by poor black people against other people: Excused by poverty, etc.
Crimes committed by poor black people against animals: The worst thing

Just so everyone knows where they're supposed to stand.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:48 AM on August 25 [5 favorites +] [!]


No no, Bulgaroktonos - Strawman arguments are the worst thing. Just so you know.
posted by FatherDagon at 12:13 PM on August 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


To be fair, there is a pronounced anti-pro sports / anti-athletics atmosphere here (not judging either way, just noting), so you add the animal cruelty to the mix, sprinkle some race issues on top, and it is no wonder that the response to Vick here has tended to take the tone it has.

I find it more interesting than risible. But it is there.
posted by joe lisboa at 12:13 PM on August 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'll just leave this here.
posted by cashman at 12:13 PM on August 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


i'm going to repeat what i said i the thread about his reinstatement to the league.

ex-cons should be able to be productive members of society again after they've received punishment and rehabilitation for their offenses. either you believe that or you don't. telling him he can't earn a living doing what he's good at (a job that has nothing to do with his crime) is continually punishing him for a crime he already paid his debt to.
posted by nadawi at 12:14 PM on August 25, 2011 [23 favorites]


sprinkle some race issues on top

I so need to put a little spice container in my kitchen with "Race Issues" on the label.
posted by cashman at 12:15 PM on August 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


Hell,cockfighting was legal in louisiana until 2008.

Cockfighting is now illegal in all 50 states, but being a spectator is illegal in only 41 states. Dumb,dumb,dumb.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 12:16 PM on August 25, 2011


Cashman for the win.
posted by joe lisboa at 12:16 PM on August 25, 2011


"They let a white lady shoot hang a Moose around the neck by nylon cord, electrocute it in a swimming pool, drown it in a 10 gallon bucket, sic tigers on them for fun..." now we're getting close.


Have you ever been to a slaughterhouse? Lots of hanging animals and electrocution and blood and gore and yet no one (well maybe PETA) is calling for Purdue, Tyson and Harris Farms to be shut down.

Lots of hypocrisy to go around.
posted by photoslob at 12:16 PM on August 25, 2011 [6 favorites]


That's how I mark the MSG. Just so I'm not embarrassed when people look at my spice rack.
posted by box at 12:17 PM on August 25, 2011 [6 favorites]


""They let a white lady shoot a Moose, but when a black guy kills a dog, it's a crime". Chris Rock on the difference between Sarah Palin and Michael Vick."

The difference being Sarah Palin did not hook up the moose to car batteries, make mooses tear each other apart for entertainment, or physically body slam the losing moose to its death.

Theres a special kind of cruelty which Vick participated in. Race has nothing to do with it. Chris Rock can take that to the bank.
posted by amazingstill at 12:18 PM on August 25, 2011 [10 favorites]


Have you ever been to a slaughterhouse?

Like I said, motivation matters to me. I don't approve of the way slaughterhouses are run but also people aren't doing it because it makes them happy and it's what they do for entertainment on the weekends.
posted by small_ruminant at 12:18 PM on August 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


ex-cons should be able to be productive members of society again after they've received punishment and rehabilitation for their offenses.

I don't personally have to hire them if their crime is one I find too personally creepy. Again, it's not the crime, it's the mindset that thinks torturing animals is fun. I don't have to approve of people who DO hire them, either.
posted by small_ruminant at 12:21 PM on August 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


Chris Rock, your joke has logical flaws.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:21 PM on August 25, 2011 [7 favorites]


Like I said, motivation matters to me.

Presumably meat-eaters derive a great deal of satisfaction / pleasure from eating meat. And that without said motivation-driven demand, the factory farming industry would cease to engage in cruelty.

There is a counter-argument to be made here, but you have not made it.
posted by joe lisboa at 12:21 PM on August 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


If you'd prefer to read an profile of Vick that discusses the racial aspects of the public reaction to him without the idiotic line of thought that led to that picture, there's a recent GQ piece by Will Leitch.
posted by Copronymus at 12:23 PM on August 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Or maybe you are suggesting that tortuting animals to make a living is a justifiable motivation but personal pleasure is not. I still do not see how that works.
posted by joe lisboa at 12:23 PM on August 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


Bloodsport is bloodsport. It really comes down to motivation, no?

I would never, ever, never, ever approve of dogfighting or cut Michael Vick any slack for participating.

That said, where's the public reaction to captive hunts? Old zoo animals or semi-wild creatures hunted on closed-in terrain for trophy mounts. Run as a business. I don't see anyone going to jail there. Plenty legal.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 12:24 PM on August 25, 2011


Like I said, motivation matters to me. I don't approve of the way slaughterhouses are run but also people aren't doing it because it makes them happy and it's what they do for entertainment on the weekends.

A few new years eves ago, I was at a party where there was this guy from Plano, Texas who grew up on a chicken farm. He told us a story about how sometimes they would inject an egg with dye to make it hatch a funny color, like blue or pink. Just for shits and giggles. He also told us that the chickens sometimes wound up kinda fucked up because of it. Teehee!
posted by Hoopo at 12:26 PM on August 25, 2011


Theres a special kind of cruelty which Vick participated in. Race has nothing to do with it.

Do white people generally view Michael Vick's actions in the same way as black people? The only people who I remember defending Vick were black, so I think race has a lot to do with it.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:27 PM on August 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


if dogs weren't kept as family pets you wouldn't be so furious about vick. why can't you admit that?
posted by the mad poster! at 12:27 PM on August 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


The students want him there; he won a popular vote. Their options were Vick, Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter, and school-district superintendent Arlene Ackerman. The Camelot Schools claim the vote was "close." I do not believe them.

Hey now, Arlene Ackerman gives a hell of a speech.


posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:27 PM on August 25, 2011


Again, for me it wasn't the dogfighting so much as the rest of the torture. I find dogfighting repulsive but not substantially different than slaughterhouses, captive hunts, etc. For me, what's made Vick's crimes different is the one-on-one off-hours torture for entertainment.
posted by small_ruminant at 12:28 PM on August 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


if dogs weren't kept as family pets you wouldn't be so furious about vick. why can't you admit that?

Because it's not particularly true for me? Like I said, I don't own dogs or any pets. If he did what he did to cows or a raccoons I'd be just as appalled.
posted by small_ruminant at 12:29 PM on August 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was going to drop in and offer my opinion. But, fuck it, we're mired in emotional back-and-forth filled with accusations and disinformation. In which I rarely do well.
posted by eoden at 12:29 PM on August 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Because it's not particularly true for me? Like I said, I don't own dogs or any pets. If he did what he did to cows or a raccoons I'd be just as appalled.

that's not too common. most people have specific reasons to be appalled by actions towards certain animals and not others. (whales are cute. shrimp are not.) those reasons are culturally driven
posted by the mad poster! at 12:30 PM on August 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yes, lots of people give Vick a free pass. Since Vick was resigned by Nike I've followed the tweets that talk about Vick and Nike.

I've been surprised by the number of people who put forward the point of view that Vick was overly punished for his actions, that he "only hurt dogs" or that "white people care more about dogs than they do about people".

(I'm not bothered by him playing football since I do believe he should have the right to do his job, but the endorsement deals got me interested since I like to tweet for my cat, and he will never forgive.)
posted by KS at 12:31 PM on August 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


since I like to tweet for my cat, and he will never forgive.

Like a cat has room to talk about torturing animals for entertainment!

posted by small_ruminant at 12:33 PM on August 25, 2011 [11 favorites]


I live in Philadelphia so I've read and listened to a number of interviews with Vick about the dogfighting. I'm a gigantic dog-lover and was absolutely in the anti-Vick camp. Now, I'm not so sure. I've been thinking a lot about my assumptions about the relationship people have with animals and how much of that is innate and how much of that comes from culture. I think maybe many people taking the "What Vick did is unforgiveable" stance don't realize that in other cultures (i.e. not white American culture) the "Animals are adorable helpless creatures who deserve our protection and love" attitude is not an ingrained one. Animals are seen from a far more utilitarian perspective. In an interview Vick gave with NPR he explained that he did love dogs, but the way he was taught to love them was different.

In the white, American, middle-upper class culture I grew up in, I was taught to love animals for their companionship, their loyalty, and the ways in which we see them as fragile, emotional, responsive creatures like humans. Vick was taught to love dogs for their strength, their resilience, their warrior abilities, and their animalness, the ways in which they're not subject to the fragile, emotional responses of humans. Dogs can be companions, but ultimately dogs are tools and dogs are dogs. He wasn't taught to have the same level of empathy with dogs. If your exposure to dogs is stray dogs or dogs that are kept as guard dogs or fighting dogs, dogs that aren't really cuddly and with whom you're not developing that empathetic relationship, then you probably aren't going to recognize the more emotional, responsive side of dogs that exists.

I'm not condoning his actions. I think he should have gone to jail for them, and I think they're horrible. But hearing him talk about his experience with dogs as a kid and his relationship growing up with dogs helped me understand a little more where he was coming from, and that maybe that dogfighting wasn't because he's a horrible psychopath but because he got raised with a really twisted, weird view of what dogs are. For what it's worth, I have friends who were raised in less animal-as-companion cultures and their viewpoint of dogs and cats and pets in general are a lot closer to Vick's than my "Animals are my dearest furbabies" beliefs.

Recognize that Vick has been doing a LOT of work with the Humane Society, he started while in prison and has been working closely with them since to specifically combat dogfighting and institute programs in urban areas that seek to teach kids to develop loving, healthy relationships with animals.
posted by schroedinger at 12:34 PM on August 25, 2011 [41 favorites]


While I don't lend much credence to the idea that Vick's race makes him less morally culpable for his crimes, I find it really unpalatable that so many people have a stronger reaction to his crimes than they would to someone who murdered or raped a human. Plus, the man went to prison. He served the time, and by most accounts is now at least trying to understand that his actions are and were completely amoral and unacceptable. The vitriol needs to be dialed back, and he needs to be allowed to get on with his life.
posted by katyggls at 12:35 PM on August 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


Do white people generally view Michael Vick's actions in the same way as black people? The only people who I remember defending Vick were black, so I think race has a lot to do with it.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 3:27 PM on August 25 [+] [!]


I think this is a culture issue. In a lot of urban black households dogs aren't viewed the same way they are in upper-middle class suburban white households. So dogfighting doesn't get that "Oh God he's a psychopath" gut reaction. See my above post.
posted by schroedinger at 12:36 PM on August 25, 2011


I hate him for his crimes as much as i hate the farmers who got off scott free for abusing animals too and they were white. Abusing animals is the same as abusing children, they are both vulnerable, trusting, can't defend themselves, and those who hurt them shouldn't be defended. Screw this "it's his culture" bullshit that Whoopie Goldberg tossed out a while ago. You know what else was 'their culture'? Lynching black people for fun, guess that should get a pass too. Fuck him, fuck animal and child abusers, and fuck anyone who defends them. Whatever their color.
posted by usagizero at 12:41 PM on August 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


To re-state what's been said, it's not really accurate to say "free pass" in the context of a guy who's been sent to jail and lost a shitload of cash for his crimes. That is by definition not "free". Beyond that, I can certainly understand that some people might have different opinions on what an appropriate punishment is for the sort of crime Vick committed, and some of those might come down on the softer side of what he was given.
posted by Hoopo at 12:43 PM on August 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


acyeager: "'My favorite thing about Michael Vick is that he allows me to mask my racism with an over-inflated love of dogs.' - Lots of people"

Is it not possible to dislike dog fights for the simple fact that dog fights are wrong?

I'm an animal lover. I don't follow football (in fact, would be happy to stop paying for our local team's stadium). If it weren't for the fact that he tortured animals, I wouldn't have known the name, much less been able to pick him out of a multi-ethnic group of football players. Even today, the only reason I might be able to connect the name to a racial identify would be because of articles like this. To me, he's just an animal abuser.

I'm a cat lover. I'm an advocate for all felidaes--from kittens to fishing cats to cheetahs to lions. Anyone who knows me would say my "over-inflated love of cats" is sincere, and masks nothing.

When I read about Andy, my blood boiled. Andy was a tiny kitten who was rescued from being bait for fighting dogs. I try to imagine this tiny little creature knowing nothing but fear until ultimately killed by other animals as part of an inherent display of man's cruelty. As I said, he was rescued, but, not all stories have happy endings.

So, can I hate Michael Vick because he's simply a worthless piece of trash who tortures defenseless creatures and not have you assume I'm racist?
posted by MrGuilt at 12:46 PM on August 25, 2011 [11 favorites]


there are plenty classes of americans who get away with fearing dogs as vicious machines. DEA agents get to shoot whichever family dog they want
posted by the mad poster! at 12:46 PM on August 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think this is a culture issue. In a lot of urban black households dogs aren't viewed the same way they are in upper-middle class suburban white households. So dogfighting doesn't get that "Oh God he's a psychopath" gut reaction. See my above post.

Oh, I agree totally. I think this is a case where middle and upper class white people are universalizing their own experience of dogs and revulsion at dogfighting, when the it looks a lot different to someone who had Vick's experiences growing up. That's not to say that dogfighting shouldn't be illegal, just to say that Vick's experiences probably aren't yours, so be careful condemning him.

I also think some of this is lost on Metafilter because we have way more vegans than the general population. In the real world, Vick was pretty universally condemned even by people who happily eat meat and don't really care about the abuse of farm animals.

Fuck him, fuck animal and child abusers, and fuck anyone who defends them. Whatever their color.

Right, because asking you to understand another's perspective isn't exactly the same as defending what that person did.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:46 PM on August 25, 2011


So, can I hate Michael Vick because he's simply a worthless piece of trash who tortures defenseless creatures and not have you assume I'm racist?

what's the right response? people write about how they want him to get brutally raped in prison, plenty who don't want him to ever work again, I'm sure many out there wish he was executed or imprisoned for life. Is there a limit? Should it be the same penalty for everyone involved and if so--why wasn't it?
posted by the mad poster! at 12:48 PM on August 25, 2011


Abusing animals is the same as abusing children

No. Not it is not. Until I walk past the Burger King down the street and it is selling Grilled Babies for $3.99, no, no it is not.
posted by cashman at 12:51 PM on August 25, 2011 [11 favorites]


It's not any worse to make a dog suffer than to make a pig or a chicken or a cow suffer.

Bullshit. Just because both are bad doesn't mean one isn't much, much worse. Forcing two animals to brutally maul each other to the death is about as cruel as animal cruelty gets.

Dog fighting is animal cruelty for the sake of animal cruelty. There is absolutely no reason and absolutely no excuse.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:54 PM on August 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


Just to return back to the original question: if Michael Vick had been a white man who was caught with the dogfighting abuses, and plus had a problem with profligate spending (he blew a lot of money on things other than his legal defense), then yeah, he'd still have a big public image problem--Lenny Dykstra isn't a very popular guy right now, and he hasn't abused animals that we know of.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:54 PM on August 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


but most people, even the poor and unprivileged, know that it's wrong to abuse animals.

I think you would be really, really surprised. IME, respect for animals is almost entirely cultural (and it's not necessarily a white vs. black thing, or even a class thing - it's possibly a rural vs. urban thing). Sure, most people will not engage in dog fighting, but on the other hand lots of people in certain parts of the US (including my parents) do not bat an eye at the idea of leaving a guard dog chained up outside for 24 hours a day. I think that most people would be theoretically OK with the concept of an "outside dog" who does not have regular companionship with humans or other friendly animals.

One of my neighbors has a reactive/aggressive toy dog that she just lets out into the front yard, off leash. It runs all over the neighborhood chasing other, larger dogs away from its "property." That, to me, is a form of animal abuse - it's both physically dangerous and emotionally stressful.
posted by muddgirl at 12:54 PM on August 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Here's the thing. It is without doubt that culture informs how we view animals. It changes what we eat, what we venerate, and what we are willing to abuse.

That doesn't mean you can't condemn the culture and the individuals who take part in it, but it's not fair to ignore entirely cultural context in which the individuals are acting.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:55 PM on August 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


the mad poster!, I'll take your points overall:

Should it be the same penalty for everyone involved and if so--why wasn't it?

Yes it should, but I have no idea why not. Race? Fame? Phase of the moon?

what's the right response? people write about how they want him to get brutally raped in prison, plenty who don't want him to ever work again, I'm sure many out there wish he was executed or imprisoned for life. Is there a limit?

I'm not sure what the right response is, to be honest. I think the animal cruelty laws in this country are weak, though I'm pretty sure there is a limit. The answer to brutality is not brutality--death penalty, prison rape, etc, aren't the right answers.

On the other hand, his primary occupation is one where he is a role model due to his involvement in a violent sport. His engagement in that profession should surely be called into question based on behavior such as this.

My point was not that he should be tortured--I want to see the best in humanity, which often means how we respond to the worst in humanity. My point was more that it is possible to dislike an individual for their deeds, but have nothing to do with their race.
posted by MrGuilt at 12:58 PM on August 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Good grief. Am I the only person in this thread who remembers when Wired Magazine did a cover with a caucasian O.J. Simpson?
posted by hippybear at 1:00 PM on August 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


(I'll add, the reason racism gets brought up quickly in discussions of Vick is that condemning him can be read as a condemnation of the culture in which dog fighting is taking place. That is always a minefield, even Bill Cosby runs into backlash when criticizing African American culture)
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:01 PM on August 25, 2011


Now, I'm not so sure. I've been thinking a lot about my assumptions about the relationship people have with animals and how much of that is innate and how much of that comes from culture. I think maybe many people taking the "What Vick did is unforgiveable" stance don't realize that in other cultures (i.e. not white American culture) the "Animals are adorable helpless creatures who deserve our protection and love" attitude is not an ingrained one. Animals are seen from a far more utilitarian perspective. In an interview Vick gave with NPR he explained that he did love dogs, but the way he was taught to love them was different.


I agree with this statement, a lot, I love animals, mainly dogs but growing up in a different country I saw a lot of people that couldn't give two hoots about them. When I moved to the U.S. I was extremely surprised by the way people treat animals here.

A lot of you can't simply begin to understand that other people think differently about animals and animal torture. They don't see them as you and I and that's where racism comes in because you can't get around the fact, that yes it is quite possible to do what he did because in his culture there's just not the same room for empathy that we have for animals. Your failure to understand that other people simply are not raised to think about matters in the same way you do is what the authors are calling out here.

I am glad he went to jail, it is a way to wake up other people that are not as familiar with the way the laws work here (and the way most of America feels about animals). In a way I hope that it helped other people who were doing wrong wake up and realize the error in their ways. However he paid his debts and should be left alone to do what he does best regardless of how much he makes.
posted by The1andonly at 1:01 PM on August 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


What if Michael Vick were white?

He would have spent even less time in jail.
posted by Apropos of Something at 1:06 PM on August 25, 2011 [7 favorites]


Without putting too much spin on this:

I am white. I have a dog. I live in the hood. Most of the people I see every day are black, my neighbors and friends are black, and most of my daily interactions are with black people. By and large, we are all the same; most of the distinctions that people try to draw are horseshit.

That being said, there are cultural differences. The two that I see most often is that black mothers generally have a lot of respect in the house, and pets generally don't get the same respect I see in white households.

Not good or bad, just different. Make of it what you will.I just think that there is some validity to the cultural differences argument. (This still doesn't excuse Vick.)
posted by Benny Andajetz at 1:12 PM on August 25, 2011


Crimes committed by poor black people against animals: The worst thing

This was a crime committed by a RICH black man against animals. And Vick got caught, got his day in court, and did his time. As far as I am concerned, he can play pro ball, work for the post office, or go to law school. And if he does it again, or if he commits another crime against animals or humans, he should face the music again. But I have no evidence that he has committed any other crimes, so in my book, the state and me both should stay out of his business. Race, as far as I'm concerned, has nothing to do with anything in this situation. If it was a poor guy or a white guy who did what Vick did, he should get the same treatment, period, end of story. And I'm saying this as a casual football fan who thinks Vick is an overrated player.

As for the dogfighting=eating meat issue, I strongly disagree. Humans are omnivorous animals. We eat meat and plants. Our bodies and means of locomotion are specifically evolved for hunting as well as gathering. Agriculture is hard, and sometimes cruel, but it doesn't have to rise to the level of factory farming cruelty. I grew up on a farm, and I have seen farms where the animals are well-treated, lead reasonably content lives, and are eventually slaughtered and eaten. I have also seen farms where the animals are not well-treated, and are clearly miserable. Factory farming is bad for the health of the planet, bad for the animals, bad for the humans who eat the meat, and economically bad for the small farmers like my family. It's only good for the companies who run the farms. But while eating meat can be said to involve some level of cruelty (which to me raises the question, is a lion cruel? Is a coyote cruel? Is a killer whale cruel? Is a mosquito hawk cruel?) it clearly does not rise to the same level of cruelty as making animals fight for your entertainment.

Nothing is black and white in this world. Everybody's got to draw lines somewhere.
posted by vibrotronica at 1:12 PM on August 25, 2011 [9 favorites]


whales are cute. shrimp are not.

That's not quite the equation. It's that whales are cuter than they are tasty. Shrimp are tastier than they are cute. So are bacons, or whatever those things are called.
posted by The Bellman at 1:14 PM on August 25, 2011


Crimes committed by athletes: Eh, forgiveable as long as they can still play

I think I'd even stretch it a little more to "play well." If Vick had come back and played terribly, all of the NFL's rehab of his image would have been for nothing. He would have faded away. As long as he continues to generate huge sums of cash for very rich men, he can pretty much do whatever he wants. I think the NFL is a testament to that--sexual assault, domestic abuse, drunk driving, weapons charges--those are all just minor scrapes to be cleaned up and negotiated down.

He could even join the Tea Party (well, white Michael Vick could). Pretty much the only thing his career wouldn't survive would be being gay. How many jerseys would he sell then? Would the NFL send Tony Dungy to speak for him then?
posted by gladly at 1:18 PM on August 25, 2011


It's that whales are cuter than they are tasty.
And this reminds me that certain Englishmen, who long ago were accidentally left in Greenland by a whaling vessel-that these men actually lived for several months on the mouldy scraps of whales which had been left ashore after trying out the blubber. Among the Dutch whalemen these scraps are called "fritters"; which, indeed, they greatly resemble, being brown and crisp, and smelling something like old Amsterdam housewives' dough-nuts or oly-cooks, when fresh. They have such an eatable look that the most self-denying stranger can hardly keep his hands off.
—Herman Melville, Moby Dick
posted by Sys Rq at 1:19 PM on August 25, 2011


it clearly does not rise to the same level of cruelty as making animals fight for your entertainment

Honest question: if pit bulls were bred to fight animals for our entertainment (as is claimed by some anti-pit-bull activists), is it more or less ethical to use them for that purpose?
posted by muddgirl at 1:20 PM on August 25, 2011


Honest question: if pit bulls were bred to fight animals for our entertainment (as is claimed by some anti-pit-bull activists), is it more or less ethical to use them for that purpose?

African-Americans were bred for a purpose, too. That's no excuse for slavery.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:21 PM on August 25, 2011


whales are cuter than they are tasty. Shrimp are tastier than they are cute.

The type of whale that typically gets eaten is not what I'd consider "cute". And I have tried it (without knowing what it was, so relax) and I'll go on the record as saying it's plenty tasty.
posted by Hoopo at 1:23 PM on August 25, 2011


Humans are omnivorous animals. We eat meat and plants.


for aesthetic reasons at this point. you can get your protein in shakes too. we are also visceral animals. some of us would enjoy gladiator battles, dogfights, etc. the biological argument doesn't quite cut it.
posted by the mad poster! at 1:23 PM on August 25, 2011


What if Michael Vick brutally killed rats instead of dogs? In some parts of the world, rats are sacred and dogs are filthy pests. Even though he is not from that part of the world, the point is that the moral magnitude of the crime may depend more on culture, while the judicial magnitude is (supposedly) based on the law. I'm neither an expert on law or the philosophy of morals, but this is a fairly complex issue for both.

That said, in the eyes of MANY people throughout the world, the sport of American Football itself is cruel and violent for many of the same reasons we all find dogfighting so reprehensible...
posted by sharkitect at 1:24 PM on August 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Pretty much the only thing his career wouldn't survive would be being gay. How many jerseys would he sell then?

Well I would still buy one, but look, homophobia is a cultural problem far more widespread than the one that spawned dog fighting rings. Even so, I think a successful openly NFL gay player would go a long way to changing that culture. It's going to happen.

all of the NFL's rehab of his image would have been for nothing. He would have faded away. As long as he continues to generate huge sums of cash for very rich men, he can pretty much do whatever he wants.

...aside from tarnishing that image again. The NFL does take their reputation seriously, like people say about Vick it may just be about money, but it's there.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:28 PM on August 25, 2011


What if Michael Vick was.... a ginger?

(Peter King: "Has there ever been a red-headed quarterback in the NFL who's really done well?" a coach asked one reporter last week. "It sounds idiotic, but is there any way that could be a factor? We've wondered.")
posted by norm at 1:28 PM on August 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


in the eyes of MANY people throughout the world, the sport of American Football itself is cruel and violent for many of the same reasons we all find dogfighting so reprehensible

This idea seemed far-fetched to me, until I read an excellent article on this in The New Yorker a year or two ago.
posted by cashman at 1:29 PM on August 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


Sonny Jurgensen was a redhead. 'Nuff said.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 1:34 PM on August 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I assume it's true that if Vick were white, he would have done even less time in prison, and I assume it's true that he was only given his old prestigious well-paying job back because he is an elite athlete.

Even with those assumptions, the thing I take away from discussions about Vick is that people in the U.S. don't really believe that a convicted criminal deserves the opportunity to move past his crime. People in the U.S. don't really believe that persons convicted of repulsive violent acts deserve anything but contempt, humiliation and debasement, even after their time in prison. Even if their habits and comportment after prison demonstrates an ability to think critically about their crime and make amends.

I rarely have to confront my own cognitive dissonance over crimes, criminal justice, rehabilitation. I work for criminal justice reform and still almost never have to think very closely whether people who commit vicious crimes that repulse me on my most primitive personal level deserve reintegration. Generally, it remains all academic: addiction services, diversion courts, GED programs in prison.

Once, I was the defense attorney for an appeal for a man serving natural life after a grotesque brutal crime. The record of his trial demonstrated a significant procedural error, but the record of his trial presented a crime that turned my stomach every time I picked up the task at work. I wept with relief for days when this client died--violently, as it turned out, in prison--before I had to file the reply brief on his behalf. I believed that I may have won him merely a new trial, not an acquittal, not even a new sentence, just a new trial. Just a check on a malfunctioning system. Still, I did not want this inhuman beast to feel even for a moment the kindness of someone working to protect his rights. And I knew that having that feeling was unjust and it was wrong. He had a right to be treated fairly at trial and I had no right to consider him less than human. So I suppressed my revulsion and I worked on his case. Events intervened; therefore I would not succeed on his behalf, and I no longer had to wrestle with my own hypocrisy.

I got to go back to viewing the question of punitive vs restorative justice as all academic.

Then I ended up living with a Guy who is the biggest football fan in the world, and for more than half the year Michael Vick is all over my tv and the internet in the house. I have no personal stake in his case or his crime or his career (aside having been a dog owner most of my life with a partner that loves football), but it reminded me of my own discomfort with the practical result of my belief that crimes have causes which can be addressed. That criminals are humans, who can be rehabilitated. That society is harmed more than it is helped by releasing men after they have served their time into communities who shun them.

Whatever I think about the inequities in our justice system. Whatever I think about the perversity of the American sports industry. I emphatically cannot believe that Vick should have been prevented from returning to his career where it was unconnected to his crime.
posted by crush-onastick at 1:35 PM on August 25, 2011 [20 favorites]


African-Americans were bred for a purpose, too. That's no excuse for slavery.

First off, I'm not trying to justify dog fighting (I am vehemently opposed to dog fighting, along with other lesser, but more common, forms of cruelty towards dogs). I'm trying to reconcile two different reactions I've witnessed: (1) Dog fighting is cruelty towards dogs, (2) we should systematically eliminate pit bulls because they have been bred to fight and are inherently dangerous. If pit bulls have been bred to fight, is it cruel to have them do so?

Second of all, I would love to learn more about a systematic breeding practice to create better slaves from African stock - I did not know that such a program existed (indeed I learned that slaveowners were more concerned about quantity than quality)(note that this link contains some potentially triggering depictions of rape and forced or coerced pregnancy). Humans have engaged in targeted and systematic breeding of many dog stocks for specific purposes since the very domestication of dogs. Again, I don't think this is a justification or an excuse for dog fighting. It is something that I have been thinking about recently as I have gotten more involved with dogs and other dog-owners, specifically with greyhounds which are bred to be raced and are still raced in the US.
posted by muddgirl at 1:39 PM on August 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I didn't know cannibalism was wrong. I just grew up in a culture where it was normal...
posted by schwa at 1:41 PM on August 25, 2011


I had a rough upbringing and nobody ever taught me that Soylent Green is people.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:45 PM on August 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


Right, because asking you to understand another's perspective isn't exactly the same as defending what that person did.

Bulgaroktonos, I see your point here. But here's the problem I have with this article and why (I think) other people are having negative reactions to the article: It confuses race and class issues by attempting to blame Vick's villification on race, instead of his crime. It does this by setting up a false theory that dogfighting is somehow a "black" thing as opposed to a cultural thing (I would invite the author to take a stroll through eastern Oklahoma if he seriously thinks dogfighting is a "black" thing), and then uses that to try to prove up the author's thesis statement that had he grown up in traditional two-parent middle class family, and not been black, he would not have committed this crime. Take a look at the article:

Here's another question: If Vick grew up with the paternal support that white kids are more likely to have (72 percent percent of black children are born to unwed mothers compared with 29 percent of white children), would he have been involved in dogfighting? I ask this not to look for an excuse but to explore the roots of his behavior. Vick's stunningly stupid moral breakdown with respect to dogs is certainly related to the culture of the world he grew up in, which he says fully embraced dogfighting. But it's also related to the household he grew up in.

So here, the author is suggesting that influences which led to this crime included "culture of the world he grew up in." Okay, I can sign on to that: Dogfighting is a Southern sort of thing, not just a black/white thing. But the paragraph of the article right before that seems to be saying that had Vick been a white kid into dogfighting, he would have either given it up upon becoming successful, or even worse, he wouldn't have gotten caught:

Would a white kid have been introduced to dogfighting at a young age and have it become normalized to the extent that he builds it into his life after he joins the NFL? It's possible, but it's far less likely because what made Vick stand out among dogfighters is less race than class. The deep pockets of an NFL star led to a kennel that was too big not to fail eventually. But if it did, though, would this white kid have been busted? Remember, it wasn't suspicion of dogfighting that started the investigation that put Vick in jail. It was that element that we've all seen hold back or bring down so many athletes from the hood -- the entourage. Vick's cousin Davon Boddie was arrested and charged with possession of marijuana with intent to sell in Hampton, Va. When police asked him for his address, he led them to the home where Bad Newz Kennels was located. After that, Vick never had a chance.

Here, rather than examining how, perhaps, a white dogfighting Michael Vick would have been treated after having been convicted and served time for the same offense, the article seriously seems to be suggesting that had Vick's villification wasn't the dogfighting, but rather, the fact that he was black. The article seems to be saying that had he been a white kid, he would either (1) have not been caught, or (2) would never have committed this crime because a white kid would have given up the dogfighting enterprise after gaining NFL success, or (3) that because Vick was black AND rich, he was inappropriately punished for doing terrible things to animals.

What the article completely ignores is the possibility that maybe people find it hard to forgive a dude who did such terrible things to dogs, rather than blame some alleged hesitance to forgive Vick for his crimes on race. I mean personally, I love innovative quarterbacking and really, really want to root for the guy because of what he adds to the game. But I also really, really love dogs, and after reading the details of what he did, and picturing the dogs he abused, it's really, really difficult for me to get behind the guy. I really, really resent the article's implication that I'm having a hard time forgiving him because of some race issues, and/or because I'm the type of privileged white person fortunate enough to grow up in a culture that appreciates dogs as pets instead of having grown up in a poor socioeconomic situation/culture in which animals were tools instead of companions.

Another thought: maybe the reason I'm having a hard time forgiving him is because there are more stupid articles written like this ESPN article blaming the issue on race and portraying him as a victim instead of positive articles (like the GQ article) linked above that portray him as a human being attempting to redeem himself.
posted by Dr. Zira at 1:46 PM on August 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


So, hypothetically, if the only two NFL quarterbacks you could root for were Mike Vick and Ben Roethlisberger, which one would you choose?
posted by box at 1:48 PM on August 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


What if Michael Vick were white?
Ask Roman Polanski
posted by fullerine at 1:50 PM on August 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's a trap!
posted by cashman at 1:51 PM on August 25, 2011


Here, rather than examining how, perhaps, a white dogfighting Michael Vick would have been treated after having been convicted and served time for the same offense, the article seriously seems to be suggesting that had Vick's villification wasn't the dogfighting, but rather, the fact that he was black.

I'm really not seeing what you are seeing in that paragraph (though maybe elsewhere in the article.) All that part is saying is that Vick was caught in part because a family member was arrested for a drug crime. There is no doubt that this is something that is far more likely to happen to an African American than to a white person.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:53 PM on August 25, 2011


All that part is saying is that Vick was caught in part because a family member was arrested for a drug crime

I'd stop at "arrested". The entourage is indeed the downfall of a surprising number of black entertainers. Hammer and Antoine Walker come to mind.
posted by cashman at 1:58 PM on August 25, 2011


I know, I know this is an oversimplification and yet, and still. I read this post and then I re-read this post about a dying homeless man reunited with his dog. And now I imagine seeing the bit about «Although [the man] was very sick and barely able to take care of himself, [the dog] was healthy, well-fed and groomed» and thinking in response, "Well, that's nice but not particularly admirable. He's a white American so he was probably just culturally encouraged to value dogs, that's all."

I can imagine responding like this. I don't want to.
posted by nicebookrack at 2:01 PM on August 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


What if Michael Vick was.... a ginger?

Oh my lord, that picture . . .

Welp, I probably have to pay up on some bet now, because Peter King turns out to have been (tangentally) involved in something that has bettered mankind.
posted by Copronymus at 2:10 PM on August 25, 2011


I hope the Patriots uniform means they traded Brady to the Eagles. As much as I like Vick...
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:14 PM on August 25, 2011


I think it's just inevitable that Ginger Vick would end up on the Patriots somehow. It's too perfect not to happen.
posted by Copronymus at 2:20 PM on August 25, 2011


"Well, that's nice but not particularly admirable. He's a white American so he was probably just culturally encouraged to value dogs, that's all."

I can imagine responding like this. I don't want to.
posted by nicebookrack 18 minutes ago [+]


Why does an explanation of how someone might not be as likely to develop this kind of empathetic relationship with their dog demean those who do?
posted by schroedinger at 2:22 PM on August 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Michael Vick is a fascinating story for as long as he continues to perform at a very high level in the most popular and profitable sport in the world.

Without skill, there would be no product for ESPN and the NFL to sell, and he'd likely be back to being condemned in public — not only by the same people who are currently desperate to feel anything good about being his fans, but by the same corporate entities who want a nice return on their investment.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:45 PM on August 25, 2011


I'm just happy ESPN used the subjunctive properly in their headline.
posted by SNWidget at 2:52 PM on August 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


There's no amount of poverty that makes torturing animals acceptable. If you're that poor, eat the fucking dog, but at least kill it humanely.
posted by FeralHat at 2:59 PM on August 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


furiousxgeorge:
It's this part of the article:
But after his arrest for dogfighting, so many people asked: Would a white football player have gotten nearly two years in prison for what Vick did to dogs? This question makes me cringe. It is so facile, naive, shortsighted and flawed that it is meaningless. Whiteness comes with great advantages, but it's not a get-out-of-every-crime-free card. Killing dogs is a heinous crime that disgusts and frightens many Americans. I'm certain white privilege would not be enough to rescue a white NFL star caught killing dogs.

Okay, I'm with you there, in complete agreement, a white guy would have been villified just as severely. But then he writes this:

Vick's stunningly stupid moral breakdown with respect to dogs is certainly related to the culture of the world he grew up in, which he says fully embraced dogfighting. But it's also related to the household he grew up in.

And then he goes on to pose these hypotheticals suggesting that his dogfighting activities and ensuing prosecution occurred because he was black instead of white, and to support this proposition, writes about the entourage and makes this ridiculous suggestion it was the black entourage* that was Vick's undoing, which seems like a completely goofy and specious argument that completely contradicts and undermines his premise - with which I agree - that White Bizarro Universe Vick would have been equally villified. This, combined with the patronizing tone in the closing paragraph suggesting we should look at him as some sort of hero, is where the tone comes in to which some of us are reacting negatively.

*Is the author really suggesting that black entourages contain more troublemakers for their celebrity anchors than white entourages? I am skeptical of this proposition, but granted, all I know of black entourages is 30 Rock, and all I know of white entourages is Entourage. Entourage is TeeVee fiction, but as I recall, it seemed to portray an image of celebrity culture in which members of white celebrity entourages are quite prone to doing stupid things, as most episodes involved a plot in which Turtle and/or Not Matt Dillon made poor decisions resulting in harm and/or wacky misadventures for the handsome ones. Then again, I stopped watching several seasons ago. Have things changed?
posted by Dr. Zira at 3:10 PM on August 25, 2011


that little last paragraph is just stunning. you can't look at how arrests occur disproportionately in america through what seasons changed in .. fucking.. entourage
posted by the mad poster! at 3:17 PM on August 25, 2011


I'm sorry, I forgot to include my sarcastic tag.
posted by Dr. Zira at 3:20 PM on August 25, 2011


And then he goes on to pose these hypotheticals suggesting that his dogfighting activities and ensuing prosecution occurred because he was black instead of white, and to support this proposition, writes about the entourage and makes this ridiculous suggestion it was the black entourage* that was Vick's undoing,

I just don't see that there. He just says it was part of why he got caught, it was. The author also notes that the operation was, because of the wealth involved, inevitably going to be busted and being white would not have changed that.

Look, Andy Reid is Micheal Vick's coach now. He is white. His kids have faced some serious legal issues over drugs that have led to Reid's house being searched. Had Andy been committing any crimes, he would have gotten caught because of those searches. That doesn't mean he wouldn't be responsible for his own actions.

*Is the author really suggesting that black entourages contain more troublemakers for their celebrity anchors than white entourages? I am skeptical of this proposition,

The black population as a whole is much more likely to face legal trouble, this is a fact. There are a wide variety of reasons for this, one of them is economic. Vick may have been rich, but he and his family grew up poor. Your upbringing doesn't go away when you get money.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:22 PM on August 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


The author also notes that the operation was, because of the wealth involved, inevitably going to be busted and being white would not have changed that.

See, I didn't interpret it this way, which is probably why it rubbed me the wrong way. My understanding was that he was suggesting that a white guy would not have even busted because the white guy wouldn't have had an entourage which included a drug dealer relative that lead the cops to the operation.

The black population as a whole is much more likely to face legal trouble, this is a fact. There are a wide variety of reasons for this, one of them is economic. Vick may have been rich, but he and his family grew up poor. Your upbringing doesn't go away when you get money.

I'm not challenging the proposition that criminal prosecutions in our country are disproportionately divided along racial lines. What I was questioning was whether the author was making some kind of inappropriate assumptions about Vick's entourage in comparison to the hypothetical white player entourage. I don't normally hang in celebrity entourages, but I'm going to guess that the phenomenon of certain troublesome sychophants which orbit the sphere of a successful celebrity and either enable a star's bad choices or make bad choices leading to the downfall of the star is not unique to black athletes. in other words, it's just as likely Hypo White Entourage consisted of a dumbass drug dealing cousin, although I'll concede that in may parts of the US, Hypo dumbass cousin was less likely to get stopped and questioned than Davon Boddie.

The bottom line is that celebrity athletes doing stupid things is not a phenomenon that is exclusive to one race or socioeconomic or cultural background, and probably has more to do with a sense of privilege that comes with celebrity, rather than just race or upbringing. By raising the circumstances of Vick's upbringing, the author inadvertently undermined the excellent point of the article, which is that hypothesizing a White Michael Vick is a stupid and pointless exercise, because there are plenty of examples of scandals involving white players available . See, e.g., Ben Roethlisberger, Brett Favre.
posted by Dr. Zira at 4:12 PM on August 25, 2011


in other words, it's just as likely Hypo White Entourage consisted of a dumbass drug dealing cousin, although I'll concede that in may parts of the US, Hypo dumbass cousin was less likely to get stopped and questioned than Davon Boddie.

In general, and in the case of Vick and Vincent Chase, the entourage is made up of old friends and family. The pool of people that makes up that group is different for Michael Vick and some kid from Nebraska.

The author also notes that the operation was, because of the wealth involved, inevitably going to be busted and being white would not have changed that.

See, I didn't interpret it this way


I don't know how else you can interpret it:

Would a white kid have been introduced to dogfighting at a young age and have it become normalized to the extent that he builds it into his life after he joins the NFL? It's possible, but it's far less likely because what made Vick stand out among dogfighters is less race than class. The deep pockets of an NFL star led to a kennel that was too big not to fail eventually.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:24 PM on August 25, 2011


(I guess he does walk that back a bit in the next sentence, but the point is he isn't really stating anything with certainty)
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:28 PM on August 25, 2011


Apparently most of the people in this thread thing that it is impossible to be rehabilitated and return to society after committing crimes. So I guess we should just put them down like the dogs right?

"My favorite thing about Michael Vick is that he allows me to mask my racism with an over-inflated love of dogs." - Lots of people

Love it.
posted by cyphill at 4:37 PM on August 25, 2011


What if Robert Rozier were white?
His admission of killing seven White people to please Yahweh would be hilariously ironic.

Whatever I think about the perversity of the American sports industry. I emphatically cannot believe that Vick should have been prevented from returning to his career where it was unconnected to his crime.

I agree with the principle here. But the NFL does next to nothing for it's athletes other than hand them money and enable them by allowing them to avoid the consequences of their actions. So I think the NFL was, in a sense, connected.
Art Schlichter as an example. He was a white guy. He has no excuse in his background. Here's a guy with a real problem who is beached when he becomes a liability.

The real question is what if Michael Vick was seriously injured in jail? He'd be out on the street now because what does the NFL owe him if he's not producing even though he's a product of their system?
Being an elite athlete is not just a job. It's not like punching a clock at an insurance company or being a dockworker. It's not 9 to 5.
Your whole life is spent in training, granted through various organizations but with the goal of getting to the NFL. So it's a large system of interconnected organizations.

At what point do we recognize that physical training must be coupled with mental discipline and social awareness once it reaches a certain intensity and requires a certain dedication?

It's very true your upbringing doesn't go away when you get money. Why then is that all someone in that position gets?
If you go from dirt poor to millionaire, you don't really have time to get that social osmosis most people get on their own (for good or ill, it's a learning experience).
Meantime, they're training all day, almost everyday isolated from normal social experiences and the full spectrum of people regular working stiffs (no matter how much money they have) experience all the time.

Look at Mike Tyson. Did great under Cus D'Amato. Got life lessons, confidence, understood self-respect and consequently respected others and began to understand his responsibilities.
Then look at what happened to Tyson when people who only wanted him as a cash cow got hold of him. Whatever flaws he had became writ large and no one lifted a finger to teach him anything.
The NFL is an entire system of that. It's a system that pretends it is not a system so it can disavow people no longer useful to the system.
It's inexcusable.
And not just for the athletes, anyone involved or victimized or who cares about them is damaged by not addressing this otherwise very simple thing.
It's a stupid waste that can be fixed (relatively) inexpensively with training.

"The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts." - Marcus Aurelius
posted by Smedleyman at 4:41 PM on August 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


tl:dr comments..

answer to question: the dogs didn't give a fuck what color he was...
posted by tomswift at 5:46 PM on August 25, 2011 [6 favorites]


Smedleyman: "I agree with the principle here. But the NFL does next to nothing for it's athletes other than hand them money and enable them by allowing them to avoid the consequences of their actions. So I think the NFL was, in a sense, connected."

You may an excellent point and I think it says a lot about the NFL that it took until 2007 when Goodell instituted the new conduct policy for the NFL to take bigger steps toward supporting the players by instituting consequences for player misconduct. However, after reading discussions and opinions regarding the issue of the the conduct policy, which was a major sticking point in the CBA negotiations*, I'm wondering whether the NFLPA may have had a role throughout the years in preventing the NFL from being too involved in regulating player conduct.

*WARNING: Opinion piece in link contains reference to television characters from Entourage, which should not be interpreted as serious illustrative examples and/or empirical data regarding drug testing policies and procedures in the American criminal justice system.
posted by Dr. Zira at 5:54 PM on August 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


It appears to me that most Americans think once a criminal, always a criminal.

I disagree. I think in certain cases: rapists, child molesters, animal abusers, yes, they are much more likely to always be a criminal. Those are horrendous crimes and take a person who is much worse mentally than someone who robs a store, or smokes a bowl (and gets caught), or any of the other myriad of crimes.

Animal abuse has been shown to lead down a path of worse treatment of human beings. Sociopaths tend to start off abusing animals.

I think too many people are allowing Vick a pass because he plays football. Fuck football, it is a damn waste how much Americans put into football. Now, everyone stating it is because he is black: bullshit, wouldn't we see many more animals tormented, tortured and forced to fight than we do, if it is solely due to race. I live in a community with a large black population and you don't see people tormenting animals.

As far as it being because he was poor, oh, come the fuck on. I grew up poor, lots of people grew up poor. Poor enough that we got free lunch, food stamps, help at Christmas, etc, you don't see all of them tormenting animals, do you?

No, you see it in people who are damaged in some way. The average person, regardless of race, class, etc, does not go out and torture dogs for fun. There is no excuse for what he did and I am really tired of hearing people try to excuse it.
posted by SuzySmith at 8:53 PM on August 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


What if Michael Vick were white?

I'd still think he was an asshole.

I'm lying in bed on my stomach right now. I couldn't turn over if I tried, because there's a pit bull mix sprawled across my ass, snoring as if his very life depended on it. He's a rescue, and it took nearly a year to remind him that it was OK for him to act like a dog, and do all the things that dogs do, like bark at the mailman and fart and drool and snore. Some asshole beat him up with a chain and locked him in a dark basement, and didn't feed him right, and pretty much made him suffer for the horrible crime of merely being a dog. My Jack, he's kinda dumb. But once he was reminded often enough that he could act like a dog, with no ill consequences, and that there was always enough food and always a warm blankie and ear scritches, and never any beatings or pain...well, he turned into the sweetest and most loving thing you'd ever want by your side. I see all the hand wringing and wailing about how Vick's treatment has been so "unfair"...and I look at this muttonhead sprawled snoring across my ass and think "Are you kidding me?"

Has Vick served his time? Yes. Should he be allowed to work? Yes. Has he changed? I don't know. Maybe if he continues to work with the Humane Society and really learns some compassion for those poor creatures he harmed and can teach others how to be compassionate, then maybe I will think he has changed. I can't say. I don't think he should ever be allowed to own another dog ever again. The shelters are full of dogs like my Jack - brutalized by assholes like Vick, and that just breaks my heart. Why the pity for someone who WILLFULLY and MALICIOUSLY hurt creatures that were dependent on him? Oh, the poor, disadvantaged millionaire! Won't someone think of the millionaires?

Spare me.
posted by MissySedai at 9:08 PM on August 25, 2011 [9 favorites]


He's a millionaire again, yeah, but what about the rest of his biography? Like that he grew up poor, like that he lost everything as a result of this and had to rebuild by doing the right things? Like that his crimes, despite the size of his bank account, suggested someone who was definitely not acting like a millionaire?

He was like a Beverly Hillbilly, surrounded by wealth but still acting like the person he grew up as.

I'm not saying you have to forgive him, but the millionaire thing is kind of off point.

Maybe if he continues to work with the Humane Society and really learns some compassion for those poor creatures he harmed and can teach others how to be compassionate, then maybe I will think he has changed.


How many more years, do you think?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:38 PM on August 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


He's a millionaire again, yeah, but what about the rest of his biography? Like that he grew up poor, like that he lost everything as a result of this and had to rebuild by doing the right things? Like that his crimes, despite the size of his bank account, suggested someone who was definitely not acting like a millionaire?

Oh, wah. Lots of people grow up poor. Hell, I grew up poor, and landed in the custody of my grandparents after my parents tried to kill me. Would that excuse my actions if I tortured dogs for my own entertainment? "Oh, poor Missy, she just had a rough childhood!" Would that get me off the hook?

No. Not a chance in hell. At his age, he KNOWS right from wrong, just like I do, and no amount of boo-hooing about his childhood will change that.

How many more years, do you think?

Until he drops dead, AFAIC.
posted by MissySedai at 9:47 PM on August 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm not sure if there would have been the same outrage, but I don't understand the politics around dogfighting.

No. Not a chance in hell. At his age, he KNOWS right from wrong, just like I do, and no amount of boo-hooing about his childhood will change that.

Some people didn't grow up around animals.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 10:31 PM on August 25, 2011


"The American population may not be guilty of carrying it out with their own hands as Vick did," says Singer. "But it's certainly guilty of supporting animal cruelty through their purchases. It's not any worse to make a dog suffer than to make a pig or a chicken or a cow suffer. If you look at factory farms and if you support them, you can't say 'Vick made animals suffer and I don't.'"

I've sorta come to the same conclusion...
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 10:32 PM on August 25, 2011



What if Michael Vick were white?

Ask Roman Polanski


Are you really comparing rape to dogfighting?
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 10:34 PM on August 25, 2011


Yeah, people are complicit in the torture of animals for the pleasure of eating cheap meat. Hundreds of years ago people of all social classes tortured animals for fun. Throwing cats in a sack and burning it was considered entertainment for the elite classes. I think people are taking their emotional reactions and confusing them for universal ethics.
posted by delmoi at 10:48 PM on August 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


BABYFIGHT!
posted by joe lisboa at 11:01 PM on August 25, 2011


Too late?
posted by joe lisboa at 11:01 PM on August 25, 2011


Michael Vick is not white.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:01 AM on August 26, 2011


Are you really comparing rape to dogfighting?
No. I am comparing the almost universal vilification of Vick in the media to the hand-wavy shoulder-shrugging reaction to Polanski's much more serious crime. Whether race had a factor I'm not sure, but,, actually scratch that, I am fucking sure race had a factor. The same way race has a factor in every single aspect of the justice system, the media and society in general.

To claim otherwise is just straight up fucking dumb, but hang on a bunch of animal loving racists will be along soon enough to decry the "race-card".

Do I condone what Vick did? Fuck no! The asshole deserved to do time. Do I think the outcome would have been different if it was Brett Favre in the same situation? Yes, and what's more I think to argue otherwise in the face of decades of contrary evidence is the logical equivalent of climate-change denial.
posted by fullerine at 4:08 AM on August 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


Would that excuse my actions if I tortured dogs for my own entertainment? "Oh, poor Missy, she just had a rough childhood!" Would that get me off the hook?

This isn't about excusing, it's about explaining. I'm not aware of anyone here who thinks he didn't deserve to lose his freedom, reputation, and money. The debate is over how much of it he deserves to try and earn back.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:10 AM on August 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


So, hypothetically, if the only two NFL quarterbacks you could root for were Mike Vick and Ben Roethlisberger, which one would you choose?

Ben Roethlisberger's accusations never made it past court and were dismissed due to shaky evidence. Evidence of Michael Vick's crimes were all over the place. Michael Vick was convicted.

I root for Ben.
posted by amazingstill at 7:35 AM on August 26, 2011


The debate is over how much of it he deserves to try and earn back.

Whatever he can manage now that he's working again, just like anyone else. And truthfully, as an elite athlete, he's already getting a much bigger break than any other convicted felons out there - he's right back in his chosen profession, whereas most convicted felons have difficulty getting any job at all.

He's had to start over because he broke the law. Not because he's Black, not because his upbringing was poor, but because he committed Federal felony. Actions have consequences, and sometimes those consequences mean that your lifestyle changes.
posted by MissySedai at 7:51 AM on August 26, 2011


What if Tom Brady was black?
posted by lilkeith07 at 7:51 AM on August 26, 2011


Whatever he can manage now that he's working again, just like anyone else. And truthfully, as an elite athlete, he's already getting a much bigger break than any other convicted felons out there

It is more than the money, it's the reputation, and when some forcefully argue he should not get it back...what exactly are you saying to the normal convicted felons? That's why race and poverty come into this discussion, other people should get another shot like he is getting and that is part of the inspiration he brings to some of his fans.

Not because he's Black, not because his upbringing was poor, but because he committed Federal felony. Actions have consequences, and sometimes those consequences mean that your lifestyle changes.

Race and poverty have consequences too, and they change your life in almost every way. You are kind of dodging the issue here and refusing to accept that this isn't about excusing his actions, you are free to believe they should not be excused but please stop insinuating anyone here disagrees with that.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:47 AM on August 26, 2011


Man, this thread is insulting to black people, poor people, and people who genuinely see dogs as "tools" and "just dogs". A lot of older people here in Trinidad basically see animals as disposable, interchangeable tools, as a consequence of growing up poor, around farms, in a hard place. These are people who suggested to me, when I was a little girl, that I drown some of my puppies in a bucket when my dog had too many. (I wasn't raised to get my dogs spayed or anything - it almost didn't even seem like our business to do so.) Even now, a lot of the people around me don't seem particularly troubled by whatever difficulties their dogs face, or feel any pressing concern for their health and happiness. They don't necessarily race them to the vet if they act sick or injured, let alone worry that they're lonely while the family is gone for the day or fret about the fact that they don't seem to like the food they're getting. There are certainly people in this country who do those things and much more, but the dominant attitude towards pets in my neighbourhood is a sort of benign-ish neglect. Many people just "use" their dogs as guard dogs rather than keep them as beloved companions. Even I, though I love my dogs and cuddle them and feel fascinated by them and carry around a huge sense of responsibility towards them, find the typical-white-middle-class-American, as-seen-on-Metafilter(tm) attitude to them really alien. My mental response to two-thirds of pet-related AskMes is, "Jesus Christ, it's just a dog".

And some of that is very wrong, and some of that is just different. But there's also a difference between emotionless utilitarian culling, and even passively allowing a dog to be sick, uncomfortable or unhappy (which is abusive enough), and the things that Michael Vick did. Just because your culture doesn't direct you to value a dog like a human and to see dog ownership as a sacred commitment to the welfare of a helpless big-hearted ward doesn't make you magically inclined to deliberately and repeatedly inflict hideous pain and death on one for pleasure and entertainment. Fucking far from it. Forgive Michael Vick or don't forgive him - it seriously doesn't make any difference at all - but I would like to see the hands-off, emotionally semi-involved, somewhat neglectful attitude towards pets that probably is common in some combination of poor/black/rural culture in America and around the world distinguished from straight up nasty, sociopathic behaviour. They are not the same thing. Also, just because some black Americans are willing to stand up for the Michael Vicks and OJ Simpsons of this world doesn't mean they think animal torture and murder are actually kind of OK - you know, because of their culture. They're probably just fed up.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 9:45 AM on August 26, 2011 [9 favorites]


It is more than the money, it's the reputation, and when some forcefully argue he should not get it back...

I'm not arguing that he shouldn't get it back, I'm just not feeling sorry for him because he has had to start from scratch to EARN it back.

what exactly are you saying to the normal convicted felons?

I tell them the same thing I said about Vick above - actions have consequences. I see convicted felons during the course of my work every day, and many of them have just been sprung from the clink and think that everything should go back to the way it was before their conviction right away. They get pissed when it doesn't, and I tell them all the same thing - you showed society that you didn't give a deep fried fuck about its rules, now you need to EARN the trust back.

Unlike Vick, though, Regular Joe felons have to scramble about, sometimes for YEARS, to find someone willing to give them a chance. So pardon me for not shedding a tear for poor Michael Vick.
posted by MissySedai at 10:27 AM on August 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


If a culture sees dogs as tools, then why should we expect them to see dogfighting as anything different from, say, boxing? Or football?

(Again, I will note that I am vehemently against dogfighting).
posted by muddgirl at 10:31 AM on August 26, 2011


I'm not arguing that he shouldn't get it back, I'm just not feeling sorry for him because he has had to start from scratch to EARN it back.

Vick definitely had to scramble around, in pro-athlete form, and earn his way back by being rejected by pretty much every team and having to sit as a third string quarterback for a year. He only got a starting job back thanks to an injury.

You should use Vick as an example for any felons you want to send that message to. Even a superstar like Vick doesn't get to go back to what he was without earning it and even then you are at the whim of luck no matter how hard you work.

I'm not arguing that he shouldn't get it back, I'm just not feeling sorry for him because he has had to start from scratch to EARN it back.

We definitely agree on that.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:36 AM on August 26, 2011


Jeff McClane: Vick was asked about ESPN What if he were white story with the question, "What if you were white?" Vick smiled, "I'm outta here."

Vick later told me he saw the ESPN photo illustration. He just laughed and said it was "crazy."

-
Sports Grid: The author of a controversial ESPN The Magazine piece on Michael Vick criticized editors’ choice of headline and art on the Dan Patrick Show Friday.

Saying the image of a white Michael Vick was “needlessly provocative” and “doesn’t fit with what I was talking about,” journalist and cultural critic Touré implied the use of the image and the “What if Michael Vick were white?” headline undermined the points he attempted to make in the article.

posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:39 AM on August 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am going to finally give in, because it just keeps playing in my head.
posted by cashman at 10:46 AM on August 26, 2011


So here's a question that struck me a while back in relation to sex offenders, and judging from a lot of the comments here, is relevant to this discussion.

The simple explanation (at least as far as I was taught) for imprisonment as a punishment for a crime is that a person serves their time, their debt to society is paid, and they can go about a normal life. Funny, right? But still, in most cases, we at least go through the motions. However, when it comes to sex crimes, we have convict's pictures being published and labeled as someone to watch out for, restrictions on where in a city an offender can live (a certain distance away from schools, parks, etc.). And in practice, going through the motions aside, if someone is convicted of a violent crime, animal abuse, etc. their chances of gaining employment, and therefore living a normal life, are pretty slim.

So, how do we as a society deal with this? If people genuinely aren't rehabilitated after serving time, why are they let out? And if people are rehabilitated, why do we treat them as though they aren't? And since, of course, the real answer is some are, and some aren't, how do we tell the difference?

I guess if there's a point I'm trying to make, it's that if we, as a society, have determined that a punishment fits a crime, then it's inherently wrong to continue punishing that person after the sentence is served. And if, in the case of certain crimes, we cannot, as a society, consider someone's debt paid, then we need to rethink the punishment.

Or something like that. I work nights, and it's way past my bedtime, so please forgive my scattered-ness
posted by Ducks or monkeys at 12:00 PM on August 26, 2011


I had a couple classes in college with a white Michael Vick. I suppose the answer to the question is, "Working at Quicken Loans doing marketing or something."
posted by klangklangston at 12:21 PM on August 26, 2011


Ducks or monkeys: " And if, in the case of certain crimes, we cannot, as a society, consider someone's debt paid, then we need to rethink the punishment."

This, a thousand times this. And you don't necessarily need to look at violent crimes and violent offenders to see how fucked up our criminal justice system is here in the US. In fact, that just muddies up the waters with the emotional charge of the pain and horrors of the crimes committed. As I admitted above, after reading the description of the dogfighting charges, I have a hard time analyzing Vick's situation without some strong emotions, so to remove the emotional charge from the analysis, let's look at nonviolent crimes.

Take, for example, someone like Barry Bonds. Even though the jury deadlocked on the three perjury counts, let's say he's hypothetically convicted on the fourth Obstruction of Justice count. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, a nonviolent first offender for a white collar crime such as perjury or obstruction of justice is subject to some mandatory prison time because it's a level 14 offense (I don't know if Bonds has any priors, but let's assume he's a first offender). Assuming there's no downward departure in sentencing, even if Bonds were only to serve a few months, then he might still be stuck with several years of supervised release even after serving his time. That's several years of being tied to a probation officer and having his freedom to travel limited; should something come up where he violates the terms of release, that's an additional charge the feds could get him on. On top of that, a conviction would mean he loses basic privileges and rights for the rest of his life such as voting or hunting with a firearm. And Bonds is a celebrity: he's fortunate in that he's got money and a support network and opportunities after he would serve his time. Think about the effect a similar conviction would have on an average person with little or no means of support prior to going in. Obviously, for someone with very little education or opportunity, this is devastating, and the stigma associated with being a convicted felon is just one more obstacle to true rehabilitation. How are you supposed to turn your life around and make up for past mistakes when you can't even get a job and make money to support yourself or your family because of your conviction? It's not just that our criminal justice system does a piss poor job of figuring out the point at which an offender's debt to society is repaid, the system actively throws up obstacles to a criminal's rehabilitation and efforts to repay that debt.

And think about this: Bonds and Roger Clemens, who is in the same boat, can both afford good legal teams. Think about someone less famous and of more limited means who might be similarly targeted by the feds as a result of giving the feds testimony in an investigation that the feds didn't like. I don't know enough about these cases to form an opinion as to whether or not Bonds or Clemens are guilty of the charges, but let's just for the sake of argument, assume they're dirty dirty liars and have sullied baseball. Does the punishment they face and ensuing loss of rights and privileges seem proportionate to the crime alleged? Personally, I always liked Bonds and rooted for him to break McGwire's record, and as a Red Sox fan, I have a soft spot for Roger Clemens, but maybe you disagree and think they're jackasses and find them abhorrent, in which case, there are other examples of sports figures in this situation to look to that you may find more sympathetic. For example, what if a similar situation involving a doping investigation were to arise with someone like Lance Armstrong who freaking beat back cancer?

In criminal law courses, we learn about the different goals of the system: punishment/retribution; to keep others safe by removing the offender from society; deterrence; and rehabilitation. The emphasis in our system is obviously heavily weighted on the first two, and I have no idea how we'd improve this situation in our country without a major paradigm shift that I don't see coming anywhere in the near future or even our lifetimes.

So back to the point at hand: Even though I don't like him and can't really look at him without seeing the victims of his crimes in my head, even I have to admit that Michael Vick's ability to reinvent himself and even be playing professional football right now is impressive and admirable when he just as easily could have given up on himself, telling society to go fuck itself, and just choosing to life the rest of his life as an outlaw loser, just like many other non-celebrity offenders for whom the obstacles to rehabilitation would be even more foreboding. Think about what it's like for someone without prospects such as a football career as an incentive to rehabilitate; do you think they are more or less likely to reoffend? It seems to me like maybe as members of society, we have a stake in providing offenders with a post-conviction support network if for no other reason than to protect ourselves from recidivism. We don't have to like Michael Vick, but if we want to discourage Vick and others like him from hurting animals again, it's probably in our best interests to encourage his efforts at rehabilitation. I kind of feel bad now for my earlier lack of sympathy, which I now realize is counterproductive.
I can still hate on Tebow, though. He's fair game.
posted by Dr. Zira at 2:29 PM on August 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think people are mixing up government vs personal responses. The government should consider it time served, end of story. (For me, this means they should get their vote back, etc. too.) The rest of us, however, don't have to.

Sort of like if I have a blog and delete comments and people cry "First Amendment!" Well, no. That would be GOVERNMENT censorship. I am free to censor my own blog in any way I'd like. Nike is free to endorse or not endorse anyone they like, regardless of their legal status.

The ethics of it can be debated, but for me the line is fairly bright.

As regards Mr. Vick: I don't care about the crime of dogfighting and I only marginally care about the dogs, to tell the truth. But what his gratuitous cruelty to his fighting dogs says about how his mind works means that it will take some serious work on his part before I view him as someone not psychopathically dangerous. I doubt he cares what my thoughts about him are, but I also doubt I'm alone in thinking this way.

The same thing with pedophiles. They may have served their prison time, but since I think pedophila is a mental condition that isn't curable, I'm not letting them babysit my kids out of some philosophical stance.

Not that it matters, but I don't know too many ex-felons who would disagree with this.
posted by small_ruminant at 3:44 PM on August 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


I honestly thought he was white. (I get all my news from NPR.)
posted by miyabo at 7:14 PM on August 26, 2011


Can someone explain, in simple terms, the revulsion people have toward dogfighting?
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 9:48 PM on August 26, 2011


Animals needlessly suffer for it, in the training and in the fights. Dogs that can't perform suffer violent and painful deaths, and some of the things Vick did to put the dogs down were uniquely sadistic.

I mean, you just have to Google around on this one and look at some of the pictures if you don't get it, but that's the bare bones.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:54 PM on August 26, 2011


$100 million over 6 years. I'm happy for him, because he's in a massive amount of debt, and I haven't looked at wikipedia lately, but even that may just bring him even, and that's assuming the Eagles offensive line keeps him out of a body cast by the end of the season. I'm sure there will be a lot of vile words said the next few days as word gets out, but someone made a great point above in saying what better example is there for people who find themselves in trouble, go to jail and then have to pick up the pieces and become a productive member of society.
posted by cashman at 5:08 PM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


maybe that dogfighting wasn't because he's a horrible psychopath but because he got raised with a really twisted, weird view of what dogs are

I don't think that the utilitarian view of animals is a twisted, weird view at all. But even I'm disgusted by torturing animals, in the same way I have a revulsion to people who pull the legs off of insects or blow up frogs with firecrackers.

We don't have to feel empathy for animals to realize that wanton animal cruelty is wrong and that there's something wrong with people who engage in this kind of sadism. Hopefully Vick's recent work with the Humane Society is reprogramming him to realize that abusing living things is wrong.

But beyond the fact that we place dogs in a category akin to children, I think we have a problem with people like Michael Vick who get caught for something like this and then move on with their lives as though nothing happened. For everyone else, so much as a conviction for drug dealing or robbery would have life-altering consequences, affecting their ability to ever hold a professional job, and it doesn't seem fair that Vick can continue on as a multimillionaire. We are a vindictive people, and Vick's crimes (and anyone's crimes) are the sort of thing that we think puts someone in the "bad person" category, and we instinctively feel that a "bad person" should have nothing but "bad things" come his way. Intellectually, I know this isn't fair, but emotionally, deep in my lizard brain, I get it. And, I confess that Vick's self-pitying, self-aggrandizing discussions about himself and how much he's suffered don't help his case.
posted by deanc at 2:11 PM on August 30, 2011


I think it would be instructive for anyone who is trying to figure out to what degree he is just a natural sadist and to what degree how he was raised is involved should take a look at the history of his brother Marcus Vick.

In some ways he is more troubled than Mike. The thin line between the $100 million success story and being a nobody like Marcus is not only talent, but also Mike's ability to get his life back together which took a lot of dedication and hard work.

I might feel differently about bringing up how he was raised over and over if the rest of his family wasn't showing some of the same issues.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:26 PM on August 30, 2011


cashman - agreed. and some reports i've read say that his actual cash in hand payout for this year will be less than it would have been if he hadn't signed. going ahead and signing, going for the long payout and not the quick bucks, and freeing up more money for his team sounds like the eagles made a good choice here.
posted by nadawi at 2:49 PM on August 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Here's an interview from today.
posted by cashman at 7:18 PM on August 30, 2011


It is reasonable to presume Michael Vick don't give a fuck what any of us think now.

(on the talk radio they are saying it's 35 mil guaranteed)
posted by bukvich at 8:30 PM on August 30, 2011


Heh, even if you think he is faking his humility in that video posted by cashman, he still needs to care about PR to keep his job and endorsements.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:41 PM on August 30, 2011


But beyond the fact that we place dogs in a category akin to children

who does this?
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 8:42 PM on August 30, 2011


who does this?

People who haven't eaten children. Tasty, tasty children.
posted by cashman at 5:28 AM on August 31, 2011


It is reasonable to presume Michael Vick don't give a fuck what any of us think now.

if you're saying this because of the deal, you don't know how PR works in the NFL. it is of the greatest importance that a leading QB try to stay in the good graces of the fans and the media. if he doesn't keep his nose clean and keep playing well, he'll still be out on his ass.

as to the guarantee, 35 million guaranteed is only a little above 2 years salary for him. without signing the deal, he was looking at 16 million this year.

just look at (non QB) albert haynesworth. he signed a 100 million dollar 7 year before the 2009 season. at the end of the 2010 season he was suspended and then traded. of that 100 million he got 21 million from the redskins and he's looking at 5 million from the patriots.

the deals seem huge, but the player still has to work to get their money.
posted by nadawi at 5:47 AM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


the deals seem huge, but the player still has to work to get their money.

Play. One plays football.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:15 AM on August 31, 2011


the NFL is about more than what's on the field. that's obviously the most important part, but if you think the only work they do is playing the game once a week, you're mistaken. there's media appearances and sponsorships and meet and greets and supporting things like Play60. to not participate in all of that, especially as a QB, would be career suicide.
posted by nadawi at 7:19 AM on August 31, 2011


There is an incredible amount of work involved in playing any professional sport at the top level.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:12 AM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's only work if you play for the Bengals.
posted by Dr. Zira at 9:57 AM on August 31, 2011


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