Friday, May 4, 2007

Dog Gone It

Sorry for depriving my loyal readers of a post yesterday, but give me a break; most of my earthly possessions were in boxes, and I was driving three hours to relocate for the summer. Even though I was resting, stupidity was not...

The Humane Society of the United States has sent a letter to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, asking that any players found guilty of being involved in illegal dog fighting rings be permanently banned from the NFL. One prominent target is Falcon's QB Michael Vick.

For those who don't know what could have prompted the letter, allow me to tell the story. Police were conducting a drug raid last week in Vick's native Virginia. They stumble into one house, and find all the essentials of a dog fighting ring: veterinary supplies, treadmills for training, blood on the carpets, tools to pry apart jaws, and a big sign that said "World Championship Dog Fights" (I made up the last one). Upon further review, it was found that the owner of the house is none other than Michael Vick.

Let me make it clear that I am no apologist for Michael Vick. He gets into many minor scuffles with police, and always plays it out like he is the victim. He is not Pacman Jones, but he's not Tom Brady either. In this case, however, Vick just may be the Vick-tim. It turns out that in his generosity early in his career, Vick bought a house for some family members, and these family members have been abusing the generosity by running the illegal dog fighting ring without Vick's knowledge. For that, I can forgive Vick, because he cannot control his family.

What irks me about this story is the blatant use of the NFL by the Humane Society of the US. The HSUS (official abbreviation) is using this story, couple with the NFL's crackdown on player conduct, to promote its agenda. I have no problem with the agenda, because it is a good one; I have a problem with the way the group is going about promoting it's agenda. Partnering with the NFL is a great idea. It works for the United Way, and many players have their own individually operated charities. But making the NFL seem like the bad guys for not banning players who may be involved in illegal animal activity is not the way to get the NFL on your good side. The HSUS has seemingly offered the NFL an ultimatum that says ban this player (it's just Vick; it's an isolated incident) or we will slander the NFL for being anti-animal rights.

Wayne Pacelle, the CEO of HSUS, was quoted in the letter as saying "We believe that the current situation involving Michael Vick is indicative of a larger subculture within the NFL of dog fighting and other forms of violence against animals." I don't see how that can be the case, seeing as this is the first time any player has been connected with any forms of animal cruelty. Players have been connected to drug rings, prostitution rings, gangs, murders, domestic violence, gambling, and wearing a hat without a license, but this is the first time a player has been connected with an animal cruelty ring. It seems that the HSUS wants to promote its good message, but is attacking the NFL in order to do it, instead of asking for help. It seems that the NFL will deny the request just to prove that it cannot be bullied, and that could send the wrong public message.

Proof of HSUS's blatant abuse of the NFL's high profile can be found later in the letter. Pacelle is again quoted as saying "We hope you will collaborate with The HSUS to combat animal cruelty and animal fighting in order to send a clear message to the public that the NFL does indeed intend to hold its players to the highest standards". Like I said, I believe the NFL and HSUS should become partners, because it's a great opportunity for both organizations to show support for the animal world. I have a problem, however, with HSUS trying to write the new rules regarding player conduct, and it's bullying attempt to make the NFL comply. The NFL cannot be bullied, simply because it is too powerful.

Realistically, Michael Vick will not be banned from the NFL for being associated with this ring. At most, he would get the same four game suspension that Chris Henry received. HSUS has the right idea about including cruelty to animals in the player conduct policy, just the wrong way to get the job done. More rational requests and less bullying tactics could one day lead to ad campaigns where NFL players are hugging all sorts of four legged friends.


Droppin' El Whammo: Cleveland Indians

1 comment:

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