The Atlanta Falcons plan to hold a retirement ceremony on Monday to honor former quarterback Michael Vick and wide receiver Roddy White. Neither player is currently with the team and they won’t be signing one-day contracts as many players of done in the past. Word that the team would honor the two impactful players came from Falcons owner Arthur Blank on Friday.
White is the franchises leading receiver with 808 receptions, 10,863 yards and 63 touchdowns. He played with the Falcons from when he was drafted in 2005 to when he was cut after the 2015 season, making his retirement announcement back in April. White was an outstanding player and teammate and absolutely deserves any accolades the team wants to bestow upon him.
Then there is Vick. The Virginia Tech quarterback joined the league in 2001 and changed the way football was played. He was the first quarterback in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards, with 1,039 in 2006. He played for six seasons with the Falcons before being found guilt of running a dog-fighting operation in 2007. He spent 23 months in prison before returning to the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles (5 years), New York Jets (1 year) and Pittsburgh Steelers (3 games).
During his incarceration, Vick has said the he maintained a close relationship with Blank. He was also invited to participate in the celebration of the last game in the Georgia Dome.
The question is, should Vick be honored for his time with the Falcons? You can look at this question in the same way as some folks argue about Pete Rose going into the Hall of Fame. Do we disassociate the off-the-field behavior from the on-the-field accomplishments? The honor is from the team he played with for his time playing football. Logically I can see that argument, what Vick did had no direct effect on the game.
But as a human and the owner of a rescue Pit Bull, I am sickened by the very thought of what Vick did. He took innocent puppies and raised them through conditioning and beating to fight against other dogs. It is a deplorable crime and I can’t see celebrating what the man did during a game that earned him millions when he spent that same time expressly committing cruelty to animals to make money. How much money did he need that his mind justified forcing dogs to fight each other to the death.
I love the game of football and watch it no matter what teams are playing. It’s an exciting and entertaining sport that brings me joy. But the joy I get having my dog Artemis in my life is 1,000 times what the NFL brings me. I could not fathom doing anything that might cause her pain… and I can’t fathom a team taking the time to celebrate someone who was convicted of the heinous crime of cruelty to animals. I am disappointed in Arthur Blank and the Atlanta Falcons and hope that the NFL intervenes or at least condones Monday’s planned celebration. I understand that the man did his time and is trying to move forward… but to celebrate the time that he was actively committing the crime, that seems very wrong.