"If we value the pursuit of knowledge, we must be free to follow wherever that search may lead us. The free mind is not a barking dog, to be tethered on a ten-foot chain."

Adlai E. Stevenson Jr.

A Library in Your Pocket

January 10, 2010

Michael Vick: Convicted Felon, Dog Killer and Ed Block Courage Award Winner

Michael Vick has been awarded the 2009 Ed Block Courage Award by the Philadelphia Eagle players. Vick was signed by the Eagles less than a month after his release from prison.

According to the Ed Block Courage Award Foundation website, the award "honors those National Football League players who exemplify commitments to the principles of sportsmanship and courage. Recipients are selected by their teammates for team effort, as well as individual performance. The Ed Block Courage Award recipient symbolizes professionalism, great strength and dedication.  He is also a community role model.  With this honor, he enters into an association which contrasts his fierce profession by becoming a major component of the Courage House National Support Network for Kids. He becomes an Ambassador of Courage for victims of abuse, violence and neglect."
On the individual performance side of the equation, in the 2009 season, Michael Vick  played in just 12 games, completed only 6 of 13 passes for 86 yards and rushed only 24 times for 95 yards. He threw one touchdown pass and rushed for two touchdowns.  This is not a record of individual accomplishment that warrants applause, let alone award.

Michael Vick is a convicted felon. He is not courageous. He does not exemplify sportsmanship and he certainly is not a community role model or anyone who should be allowed anywhere near victims of abuse, violence and neglect. My God. What message are you sending to the victims of violence when you honor a man convicted of violence to helpless animals and make him your ambassador? Michael Vick body slammed a dog in his care to death. He should be shunned, not honored.

While Vick was awaiting sentencing on his federal conviction, he failed a drug test for marijuana. That was not Vick's first involvement with marijuana. In 2004, a vehicle registered to Vick was used by two men busted for distributing marijuana.

Before Vick's "Bad Newz Kennels" dog fighting operation was busted,  any dog that flunked out of his training camp was executed. Some were killed by electrocution, others were drowned, some were hung and still others were killed by other violent means.  Vick actively participated in killing dogs and was, in fact, witnessed "shooting dogs and killing them with a shovel," and "breaking a dog's back and neck by slamming the dog to the ground until it was dead." On yet another occasion, Vick ordered his co-defendant Purnell Peace to shoot and kill a dog that had jumped out of the ring during a fight and then lost the fight when it was forced back in to the ring.

Vick's own father reported that Michael staged dog fights as early as 2001 in the family's backyard and that Michael would keep fighting dogs even after they were injured.  Vick was 21 years old at that time. When he was arrested in 2007, Vick had been involved in illegal dog fighting for at least 6 years.

When Vick was first arrested, he lied. He denied any knowledge of any illegal dog fighting operation on his property. Vick subsequently failed a polygraph exam regarding his participation in killing dogs, but eventually Vick admitted that he did participate in killing dogs. As the evidence mounted and facing 5 years in prison, Vick finally brokered a guilty plea deal for a shorter sentence.

While he was facing the criminal charges, Vick filed for bankruptcy to avoid responsibility for his debts even though the Atlanta Falcons had  paid Vick more than $66 million in bonuses alone from 2004 through 2006. In fact, Vick was one of the highest paid athletes in any professional sport.

Woody Allen used to make what seemed a funny, self deprecating joke to the effect he didn't want to belong to any club that would have him as a member. In retrospect, Allen was demonstrating excellent judgment not false modesty given the subsequently disclosed evidence that he is a pedophile who began having a sexual affair with his step daughter Soon Yi when she was still a child.

To all the past and future recipients of the Ed Block Courage Award: do you really want to be a member of a club that would allow Michael Vick to join its ranks?  And to all the people and companies that have donated monies to the Ed Block Courage Award Foundation: is this truly how you want to honor the memory of Ed Block, by funding an award to a man who didn't simply engage in illegal betting on dog fights. Michael Vick financed and operated an illegal dog fighting enterprise for years and personally participated in the torture and brutal killing of dogs.

The word courage is probably one of the most overused and misused words in sports. I did a search for the word courage on the ESPN website and there came back 2930 hits. Here's a tiny sampling:
  • "my players gave all they had, they showed courage and maturity as they fought until the end"
  • " Vaughn mustered up the courage to throw three consecutive fastballs"
  • " UConn's season was a profile in courage"
  • "Milan are always a dangerous team. We'll try to attack them with courage. "
  • "LSU needed to find a way to win this game and it showed a lot of courage in several different situations." 
  • "Del Rio told Jacksonville reporters. The one thing there's no mistaking David has a lot of courage, a lot of toughness to be able to stand in there."
  • "We have to play as a team. Above all, we have to take courage and the capacity to suffer onto the pitch, without any sort of fear."     
Maybe its no wonder that the Philadelphia Eagle players have such a gross misconception of what the word courage means since it is so misused day in day out by the journalists who cover them.

Will someone in the NFL please show some real courage and take a public stand against Michael Vick being given the Ed Block Courage Award.

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