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I Love my Dog, but…

July 26, 2007

As I see more and more media attention being given to the Michael Vick case, I can’t help but wonder how it is that these prominent professional athletes keep getting into trouble.  Names like Michael Vick, Pac Man Jones, Chris Henry, etc, etc. pop up in the news more than the Pope’s.  Yet, I can’t help but reserve my judgment on their guiltiness until the facts are in and they have been convicted of a crime.  Too frequently have I seen athletes have their whole career and lives put on “hold” due to the impatient actions and quick decision making by the powers that be, which rather than stand by a player that they have committed millions to, dump them to the side instead of taking a little media scrutiny or protest.  These are the very same players who lay their health and general well-being on the line each week for the mere sake of our enjoyment.  I know that these players are very well compensated to complete such feats, but I must say, I can’t understand why groups like PETA, Rev. Al Sharpton, Russell Simmons, and Jesse Jackson are using an indictment as a springboard for their causes.  I’m not condoning what Michael Vick is accused of, but I’m not going to throw the book at a guy who hasn’t had his day in Court yet either. 

Moreover, just because I’m a little skeptical that he’s actually guilty of these crimes does not mean that I’m a supporter of cruelty against animals.  It just means that the 18-page indictment, which is circulating on the web doesn’t give an indication into why a man who signed a $130 million dollar deal would be so “hands on” in an operation that would clearly destroy his marketability and put him at a high risk for jail time.  Not only would that be nonsensical, it is just plain dumb!  So if he is “guilty” of the things, which are alleged, be my guest and put the guy in jail for 6 years and fine him $350 k as the guidelines provide.  But if the prosecutors are using his indictment as a way for him to turn on his three friends and others who he may have knowledge about being involved in such actions, then I condemn their actions!  Michael Vick was a marketing firms dream just 2 years ago.  He was a man coming into the prime of his career, he possessed talents unmatched by Zeus himself, and he had street cred as well as crossover capability to appeal to larger market.  Yet, in a sweep Michael Vick is damaged goods with no one standing behind him.  If this scenario sounds familiar, you need to look no farther than 2003, when it was alleged that Kobe Bryant raped an employee at a local hotel he was staying at while receiving rehab in Denver, Colorado.  Kobe, like Vick, was the prince of marketing holding deals with the likes of McDonalds, Addidas, and Sprite yet when it was “alleged” that he sexually assaulted a woman, he was left standing alone.  Even though the charges were later dropped and Kobe has gained a number of sponsors since, most notably a new sneaker deal with Nike on the strength of his 81 point game, he has not reached that same level of “Superstardom” that he once achieved. 

My biggest concern about both of those cases is how shockingly easy it is to bring down, what I perceived to be titans in their respective sports.  In the Court of public opinion Kobe was a rapist and Vick is a despicable tyrant dog owner, profiting off the cruel deaths of America’s most beloved animals.  And the sad truth is, whatever happens, no matter how the case comes out, Vick and Kobe have lost millions as a result of what may be a fabrication or a strategic move by desperate prosecutors trying to gain fame by nabbing a big name in a small town.  (Note: Kobe’s case was in Eagle County and Vick is in Richmond)  However, this has a tendency to backfire, evident by the Duke charade, where the prosecutor recently admitted that he did not have credible evidence to substantiate the charges.  What are your thoughts?  Please feel free to weigh in. 

7 Comments leave one →
  1. July 26, 2007 10:50 pm

    You are making some good points–I would say a couple factors differentiate Vick from Bryant and LaCrosse:

    1) Vick’s charges are FEDERAL, so you can’t say, “Small town prosecutor up for re-election.”

    2) An athlete has a right to run a LEGITIMATE business on the side, as long as it does not conflict with his contractual obligations to team or sponsors.

    “Bad Newz Kennels” may have been a perfectly legitimate pet store–yet why am I simultaneously laughing and puking as I type that?

    In other words, it’s circumstantial evidence (Bad Newz Kennels), but Byrant and Duke Lacrosse didn’t have “Sexual Battery ‘R Us” or “One-Hour Sodomizing” as sideline businesses.

    3) I think you are correct that prosecutors will try (and I think they will succeed) on getting co-defendants to “flip” on each other–but I think it will go the other way: I think that they will get Vick’s CONSPIRATORS to flip on HIM.

    This really isn’t a “talking point,” I guess, but as an Atlantan I am offended on a totally other level–we (the citizens) were paying this guy $75-million (approx.) per year to represent the city on the professional football field.

    Would it have killed him to get rid of the losers and hangers-on, and to have just gone home, and…STRATEGIZED, SAVED HIS ENERGY, FOCUSED, AND WATCHED GAME TAPES??

    Since the NFL is one of the biggest recipients of corporate welfare in the United States, I think it is fair to hold professional football players up to a higher standard than Joe Sixpack, who is not living off of the public largesse.

  2. brndnsbruceesq permalink
    July 27, 2007 1:03 pm

    Have you ever heard of the saying, “don’t make a federal case about it?” These charges serves as a reminder that there are two legal systems in America. I’m not sure how knowledgeable you are about sports, but Jack Johnson, the first African American Heavyweight Champion, was prosecuted under the Mann Act for dating and marrying white women, and serves as a prime example of how the government can bring charges against whomever they desire. Here, instead of being charged for the transport of women across state lines for immoral purposes like Jack Johnson, the government is charging Vick in federal court for the transport of dogs across state lines. In the words of an old friend of mine, different clowns, same circus. I mention that to say this, the tactics that the government continues to utilize in order to get their target comes down to mere semantics, which can have the unintended consequence of backfiring. As attorneys, we have a duty to maintain a level of respect for the legal system and not bring embarrassment to it. So if Vick is vindicated in court, the mass public will only add Michael Vick to the list of growing prominent black athletes unfairly treated in the eyes of the media and the court system and become a martyr rather than a villain.

    On a side note, I also think it’s worth mentioning that Vick cut his cornrows before the start of his trial. Now most people will simply consider that to be a hair choice, but within the black community, it is easy to see that he is attempting to appear mainstream in the eyes of an expected majority white jury pool due to the negative connotations that cornrows now imply. I must say, way before Allen Iverson was ever conceived, there were cornrows, yet today if a young black male is seen wearing them he is believed to be a “thug.” Un uh. Cornrows have a deep-rich tradition of cultural and ethinic significance and should not be thought of as “unprofessional” simply because they were first sported on the national stage by someone who’s believed to be a hoodlum or because the first person you saw wear them was in baggy sweats rather than a 3 button suit. I often wonder if the perception would be different if Barack Obama was the first person to be seen wearing the stylish hairdo. Would America’s perception change if a “smart, clean, articulate, African-American” thought it was acceptable instead of the alternative, which I guess is a suspected dumb, dirty, unarticulate, negro such as Allen Iverson? But anyway, that’s just food for thought…So EAT!

  3. July 27, 2007 2:46 pm

    I think writing this off as a conspiracy because Vick’s black and wears cornrows is too easy.
    Vick will have his trial in the fall and perhaps he’ll be vindicated. But it’s not like seeing Vick tangled up in a criminal matter is all that surprising, based on his well-publicized bad behavior. There was the nationally televised game last season when he flipped off the fans as he was exiting the field; then there was the incident at the airport when he was questioned by security for having a water bottle with a hidden compartment; then there is the legend of “Ron Mexico” — that was reportedly the alias Vick used when he went out and had unprotected sex with women knowing that he had herpes – or so the story goes. (The NFL subsequently banned fans from ordering League-licensed Falcons jerseys with “Mexico” as the name on the back.); then there are the stories from his days at Virginia Tech, which include more tales of alleged misbehavior; and finally, let’s not forget his younger brother Marcus, who does have a criminal record and who was kicked off the Tech team after he intentionally spiked an opposing player in the throat.
    None of that has anything to do with how Vick wears his hair.
    Sure, some of this is rumor and innuendo, and, in the end, who knows if Vick was closely involved in the dog fighting. But it did go on at his house, and it involved people he associated with. I don’t think there’s a government conspiracy here. I think Vick has shown a history of bad judgment, and getting involved in dog fighting — regardless of how involved — is another — and certainly the most serious — example of that.

  4. brndnsbruceesq permalink
    July 27, 2007 4:49 pm

    Ok, I think there has been a little misunderstanding in terms of what my last comment and this post was all about. To start, my reference to Vick’s hair had nothing to do with why he was charged nor does his skin color. Vick is black, but in case you haven’t noticed, so is over 70% of the NFL. I mentioned Jack Johnson as an analogous situation because he was similarly charged with crossing state lines for illegal purposes, which will put you in federal court, not state. When it comes to the other allegations that you discussed earlier, giving someone the finger isn’t illegal and if it were 99% of drivers would be in jail right now. The water bottle incident was also a much hyped media gaffe, evident by the fact that the water bottle was tested and came back negative. In addition, nor were there drugs found hidden in the bottle. The “Ron Mexico” accusations have never been substantiated and in fact the case was settled almost a year ago. When it comes to Vick’s brother who has had his own share of legal troubles, I don’t believe you should be guilty by association.

    In short, Vick simply owned the property where the dog fighting took place, he did not live there. That practice is common among professional athletes who often times do favors for family members, but keep the possessions and property in their name to ensure that it will not be auctioned or sold off if that relative gets into financial troubles. Moreover, I’d like to make it perfectly clear when I say that I am not in the profession of conspiracies. As a law student and future lawyer, I back up all of my statements by facts and sound arguments. I discussed Vick’s change in hair style and what I perceived his motives for that change to be, which I clearly indicated doing so, as a side note. It had nothing to do with why he was charged, but everything to do with a PR move in an effort to combat the negative and underserved perceptions of people who wear their hair in an ethnic fashion. As I said in my original post, I am not an advocate of dog fighting or even Michael Vick for that matter, but I am a strong proponent of an even handed judicial process. Vick should be judged based on what he was CONVICTED for and not alleged to have done.

  5. July 27, 2007 7:55 pm

    I mentioned those previous incidents simply to say that from what I’ve seen and read, Vick isn’t exactly a choir boy. Not many of us are.
    But it’s naive of him to think that as a high-profile athlete he isn’t under greater public scrutiny than the rest of us. That’s not necessarily fair, but it’s the reality.
    So every misstep is magnified. Some athletes may change some of their habits and/or friends because of that, some may not. That’s their decision, and so it’s on them when their behavior and/or friends gets them into trouble – morally, legally or otherwise.

  6. Mr. Know It All permalink
    July 28, 2007 3:26 am

    I agree whole heartedly with Brandon, he’s very poignant and I think the most fair in the face of this waive of conservatism and judgment by the other commentators.


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