ESPN looks at Mike Vick's impact on dogfighting
Posted by Mike Florio on July 19, 2009 9:28 AM ET
As quarterback Mike Vick prepares to remove a certain piece of jewelry within the next day or so, ESPN's Outside The Lines has taken an in-depth look at the impact of the Vick case on dogfighting.
"It devastated the business," a professional "dog man" known as Victor Lopez told Mark Schwartz of ESPN. "We got sentenced right along with [Vick]."
Still, Lopez thinks that, just like Vick, dogfighting is back on the rise. He said that prices for pit bull puppies have increased in recent months, after dropping from the range of $10,000 to $15,000 to a more modest high/low of $1,500 to $3,000.
And so the Humane Society of the United States plans to use Vick to get through to the next generation of dogfighters. HSUS president Wayne Pacelle told Schwartz that Vick claims he got involved in dogfighting at the age of eight, that he and other kids would do it, and that no one told them it was wrong.
Thus, Vick will be used to tell other eight-year-old kids that it's wrong, while there's still time to get through to them before they become desensitized to the consequences of dogfighting to the dogs.
"Our goal is simple," Pacelle said. "End dogfighting in America. And I thought we could get much farther down the field by engaging with him then by endlessly flogging him."
We agree with that approach. But we think that much of Vick's impact will depend on his message. If he says only that people shouldn't fight dogs because he lost his football career and many, many millions of dollars due to dogfighting, members of his audience might shrug and say to themselves, "I don't have a football career or many, many millions of dollars to lose, so that doesn't apply to me."
The better message would be to get the kids to understand not that dogfighting is illegal, but that it's barbaric and reprehensible and something lower than criminal.
To sell that to a room full of kids who are far more perceptive and insightful than they realize, Vick will need to be truly genuine in both his remorse and transformation -- the same qualities for which NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will be searching when he meets with Vick in connection with his coming reinstatement effort.
But to have any lasting impact, Vick also needs to continue to have a high profile, so that kids will listen to what he has to say.
To have that high profile, Vick needs to get back into the NFL. And so it all comes back to whether Vick can persuade Goodell that Vick knows what he did was not just wrong but a monstrosity. If Vick can sell that to Goodell, then Vick can sell it to the kids who are in a position to be drawn to dogfighting.
Ryan "Son of Don" Taylor