Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Michael Vick: Humanitarian?

Ok, for my final (class) post, let's see if we can drum up a little discussion around a particularly controversial athlete; one who we've discussed from a public relations standpoint on multiple occasions.

Michael Vick.

You all know the story. In 2007, Vick, the quarterback of the Atlanta Falcons pled guilty for his role in a dog fighting organization. Not only was Vick involved in the inhumane torture of dogs, but he also provided the money for the illegal gambling that took place within the ring. Vick was suspended indefinitely by the NFL, cut by the Falcons, incarcerated and lost a number of sponsorships, driving him to bankruptcy. At the time, he was one of the league's most popular and marketable faces.

Upon his release from prison in 2009, Vick was signed by the Philadelphia Eagles, a signing that brought about immense criticism from NFL fans, animal rights supporters and the general public alike. After receiving minimal playing time in his first year back, Vick re-emerged as a star in 2010-11 and became a candidate to win the league's Most Valuable Player award. For his efforts, Vick was named to the Pro Bowl and was given the league's Comeback Player of the Year award.

So now let's take the Michael Vick situation and place it in the context of this blog. I won't sit here and explicitly call Vick a "sports humanitarian" because frankly, his indiscretions may permanently outnumber any number of goodwill missions that he performs. I'd like to hear YOUR opinions of whether Vick's post-incarceration efforts can ever repair his image.

Prior to his dogfighting charges, Vick was the face of two charitable foundations: The Michael Vick Foundation and The Vick Foundation (in partnership with his mother Brenda, and brother Marcus). The foundations supported at-risk youths and a number of after school programs in the Virginia area where Vick grew up.  Vick was also actively involved in charity work following the shootings at Virginia Tech (his alma mater) in 2007, donating money to assist the families affected by the shooting, as well as providing scholarships in memory of the victims. Prior to any of the dogfighting issues, Michael Vick WAS a sports humanitarian.

Since the issue came to a head, Vick's name has frequently been discussed in stories involving dogs and animal charities. In fact, on Saturday, a Virginia animal charity, Dogs Deserve Better, announced its intentions to purchase Vick's old home and turn it into a safe haven for dogs. In 2008, Sports Illustrated ran a feature looking at the dogs that had been harmed through Vick's involvement and how they were saved. To many, Michael Vick drew attention to a major problem that was not getting the coverage it deserved and because of the newfound attention, a number of endangered animals have since been saved.

Attempting to repair his image, Vick has recently worked directly with the Humane Society's anti-dogfighting campaign; however, the organization insists that he is not an official spokesperson. He has also been involved with a number of other charities, often without charging an appearance fee.
So I leave these questions with you: Can Michael Vick EVER repair his image to the point where he can once again be labeled a "sports humanitarian? Is he a person we can forgive, but not forget? Do you believe his post-prison charity work is sincere or merely an attempt to save face?

I'd love to hear your thoughts (and I wish I'd brought this up sooner!)

1 comment:

  1. Michael Vick will never be able to repair his image in my eyes, no mater what charity work he participates in. Whenever his name is brought up, all I can think about is the horrible things he did while running his illegal dog fighting organization.
    I respect the work that he is now doing with the Humane Society, but I'm sure it is mostly in an attempt to repair his image.