Eagles TAWK

Jessica Kordas

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.

One Response

  1. I think it is difficult to overstate the positives that have come out of the Vick fiasco. I have heard prominent animal advocates state that Vick represents a large net benefit, in that the wave of awareness and enforcement his bust set off has saved MANY dogs for every one that his ring killed or tortured. There is a lot of street-level awareness now, and it has entered into the popular discourse. The drawback is that it has driven the practice further underground where it is more difficult to crack, but ultimately I’m sure it has discouraged the practice.

    Another point is that, as an owner who considers his dogs part of his family, including a pit bull, I strongly recommend against demonizing Michael Vick (The author above did not do so in her article–I’m making a general point.)

    We have to acknowledge that there was, and still is, a very large culture that just doesn’t conceive of animal rights in the same way that we do. And there is a much larger group of people who can’t understand the furor regarding dogs, given what still happens to a lot of people. I am in no way justifying these perspectives, but I am saying that emotional responses are best channelled into promoting activities like the one highlighted above, rather than into potentially divisive debates about punishment. In the same way that sometimes you have to make people care about nature in order to get them to care about saving the environment, sometimes you have to make people see animals as companions rather than chattel.

    Lastly, as part of his rehab (forced or genuine) Vick is an advocate for ending the practice he was busted for. As someone coming from that underground culture, he is potentially a very effective advocate; rather than continuing to direct our anger in his direction, I think we should hope for his continued professional success as a platform for getting his/our message into communities that are otherwise resistant to it.

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