In 2007, Michael Vick, then quarterback for the NFL Atlanta Falcons, was convicted and sentences to 23 months in prison for dog fighting related offenses. When Vick was arrested and charged, the NFL suspended him from the league indefinitely. After Vick’s release earlier this year, the NFL commissioner reinstated him, allowing Vick to play in the NFL should a team choose to hire him. Shortly after this announcement Vick signed a contract to play for the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles owner Jeffery Lurie thought that Vick was taking an active role to be a valuable member in society, as such he offered Vick a second chance. In addition, Lurie promised disappointed fans that the Eagles organization would also actively participate in the animal welfare arena. Lurie’s full statement can be read here. Related blawg posts are here.
A few weeks into the 2009 season the Eagles announced they would keep their promise and set up a community outreach program called Eagles Tawk. This program is designed to help educate people on a number of important issues including, spaying and neutering pets, eliminating dog fighting, and the benefits of pet adoption. The sports world revolves around money and, while hiring Vick inevitably hurt Lurie’s pocket temporarily, fans will ultimately forget the harm that Michael Vick caused. While this program doesn’t make up for the things that Vick, it may help a new demographic to become interested in animal welfare.
I’m not just talking about the men that gather together to drink beers and watch football every Sunday as though it was a religious experience; I’m talking about kids. Eagles TAWK has teamed players up with local animal experts to visit area elementary schools to teach school aged children to give respect, consideration and proper care to animals. Kids will inevitably look up to sports stars. Having a few big names presenting this message to children at a young and impressionable age may help to change the way they think about animals. Who knows, a new generation thinking about animals rights could make a world of difference.
Hopefully the program will continue long after the people “forgive” or more realistically forget about the things Vick did.