By Gary Krasner
Note: This article was originally published at http://www.americandaily.com/article/20117
AUG 31, 2007—-In a hearing on August 27th in federal court, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick formalized his written plea that was filed last week, admitting to helping kill six to eight Pitbulls and supplying money for gambling on the fights. In a statement following the hearing, Vick rolled out the perennial celebrity claim of the intent to rehabilitate oneself: "Through this situation I found Jesus and asked him for forgiveness and have turned my life over to God." It’s unfortunate for the dogs he killed, that God doesn’t hang out at Pitbull fights, else Vick may have found God much sooner, before he killed them.
This essay is not about Vick, as the title suggests. I would not have bothered to waste my time condemning a sociopath. What concerned me were remarks made by supposedly responsible people about the Vick affair. But from the remarks that Vick made himself, allegedly "from the heart", following the hearing, one can identify signs that Vick assimilated and regurgitated the hollow and banal utterings of his apologists in the days prior to his statement.
Look at the remarks Vick made:
"I want to apologize to all the young kids out there, for my immature acts. What I did was very immature, so that means I need to grow up. I totally ask for forgiveness and understanding as I move forward to better Michael Vick the person, not the football player."
"I feel like we all make mistakes. And I made a mistake in using bad judgment and making bad decisions."
"Dogfighting is a terrible thing and I didn’t reject it. I’m upset with myself."
"If I’m more disappointed in myself in anything, it’s because of all the young people, young kids that I’ve let down who look at Michael Vick as a role model. To have to go through this and put myself in this situation, I hope that every young kid out there in the world watching this interview and following the case will use me as an example to using better judgment and making better decisions."
It’s disconcerting for any person of conscience to have to read this contrived blather. How Vick was able to utter it may suggest he’s as sociopathic as his plea might indicate. Or else he was hitting on the words his attorneys and agents chose for him to say (which would negate his claim of speaking from the heart): my immature acts; I made a mistake; we all make mistakes; bad judgment; bad decisions; etc.
This sounds like he’s describing a man who stayed out late and got drunk. Or drove while drunk. Or cheated on his wife. Or merely attended a dog fighting contest one day. Those are actions that we would call "mistakes", "immature acts", "bad judgment", or "bad decisions." But it doesn’t do justice in describing dogfighting. Dogfighting is not just "a terrible thing", as Vick craftily put it. It’s a terribly inhumane thing. The word is inhuman, Mr. Vick. It’s the word you conspicuously avoided saying, and the word which uniquely describes the acts you engaged in. What you did offends the conscience. It was not merely "immature" or "bad judgment". Describing it as such is insulting to our intelligence. You could not have been "speaking from the heart."
Vick’s statement was superbly Clintonian. For what he did was seek forgiveness for acts which he characterized as routinely ill-advised. In fact, he routinely engaged in an act devoid of pity or compassion. For dogs are the products of one of the most extraordinary and altruistic endeavors of mankind that has extended through millennia: To cohabit with, and relate to another sentient species. No other animal on earth innately wants to please and entertain us. Not other animal is unconditionally loyal to us, or would die in the act of protecting us. No other animal is as unpretentious, humble, and exhibits a sense of humor. No other animal is empathetic to the extent that he’s sad if he senses his owner is sad, or happy when his owner is happy. No other animal is despondent if he cannot play with a human. When was the last time you got a goat or cow to play with you and have as much fun at it as you had?
Those dogs that Michael Vick arranged to have killed were loyal and trusting of their owners, right to the point that their lives were being snuffed out. Their only crime was that they couldn’t kill another dog efficiently enough for Vick to profit from. And Vick sought our forgiveness?! How can this man look into the eyes of another dog again, let alone another human?! Where was his humanity when he pitted defenseless puppies, kittens and small dogs against his Pitbulls in order to instill that killer instinct in them? Youth gangs practice this ghetto-like behavior—to make money. Why would a man earning several million dollars a year choose this particular outlet for betting? Therein lies the inconvenient truth: It’s not about the betting. It’s the callous barbarity of the treatment of innocent, defenseless animals.
In other words, Mr. Vick didn’t possess an ounce of the character, love, and devotion that the dogs he killed had possessed.
That was the predicate crime in the minds of the public. Not the gambling. Yes, he was charged with competitive dogfighting, procuring and training pit bulls for fighting and conducting the enterprise across state lines. Yes, his dogs were housed, trained and fought at a property owned by Vick in Surry County, Va.
But what shocked the public’s conscience was learning that a role model to their children was the manner in which dogs that lost their fights were killed, with Vick’s knowledge or consent. The indictment described about eight young dogs were put to death at the Surry County home after they were found not ready to fight in April 2007, and that they were killing dogs "by hanging, drowning and/or slamming at least one dog’s body to the ground." Cruel and sick, particularly for a role model to children.
It was reported that authorities seized 66 dogs, including 55 pit bulls, and equipment commonly used in dogfighting. About half the dogs were tethered to car axles with heavy chains that allowed the dogs to get close to each other, but not to have contact—an arrangement typical for fighting dogs, according to the search warrant affidavit. Sometimes, dogs weren’t fed to "make it more hungry for the other dog," it read.
Vick’s Apologists & Enablers
I believe the court should not penalize him any more or less than anyone else who committed the same crimes. U.S. Attorney Chuck Rosenberg said, "a first-time offender might well receive no jail time for this offense." If that is the standard sentencing recommendation, so be it. That should not be the case for these crimes, but we can’t decide to punish Vick more that others, just because he’s a celebrity. The law must apply equally to everyone.
But while there are many people demanding excessive penalties be imposed by the court, there are an number of people at the other extreme who have come forward to minimize the barbaric nature of Vick’s crime, in order to make more palatable their proposal that Vick should ultimately be allowed back into professional football. It is this attempt to minimize the immorality of Vick’s actions is something we should confront and condemn.
But the suggestion that he should be allowed back into the game must also be resisted. Because Vick didn’t hold a mere civil service job. If he had, he would have a right to return to it after serving his sentence. Instead, he was a professional football player. A quarterback. Perhaps the position that holds the highest status in all of sports. If Vick is rewarded by allowing him to be a quarterback again, then that would minimize Vick’s heinous acts—in the minds of our children. He would become a role model again, and an example to kids that what he did was not seriously wrong. After all, how wrong could it have been, children would reason, if professional sports welcomes him back and permits him the glory that comes with that job?
"Mr. Vick will be changing more than his uniform as he is held accountable for his crimes", wrote Marie Belew Wheatley, president and CEO of the American Humane Association. "In the public eye, he is also changing from role model to â€˜example’."
But apparently it’s not just children who may benefit by barring Vick from playing again. Setting an example by banning Vick from the game just may educate some adults: Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis had said, "It’s his property. It’s his dog. If that’s what he wants to do, do it."
According to a report posted August 22nd on Breitbart.com, NY Knicks guard Stephon Marbury said that Vick is, "…a good human being" who, "…fell into a bad situation." […] "I think, you know, we don’t say anything about people who shoot deer or shoot other animals. You know, from what I hear, dog fighting is a sport. It’s just behind closed doors."
Setting aside the ignorant aspect of that statement, if professional sports figures can make such statements, then our society is not adequately teaching ethical behavior. The thing that has alarmed me is that the NFL Players Association has been silent on the Vick affair. What does that tell us?
Thus, let us all forgive Vick after he rehabilitates and redeems himself. Let him back into professional sports in a low profile capacity. But let us NOT do damage to our society by restoring to him to the pinnacle he reached, and which he himself had squandered.
In the examples that follow, you will read about his apologists. They’re all liberals or blacks with political and race agendas. Some of the rationales will seem familiar to you. Like the OJ defense (i.e. the specially-targeted successful black man), or the "boy from the ghetto" defense. But many young boys from the ghetto grow up and never murder a dog later in their lives. I grew up in a project in the Bronx for 10 years. No one had to explain to us that abusing and killing a dog in a cruel manner is wrong. It is innately human to love a dog, and not allow his face to be bitten off by another dog, or to drown or hang him. Even if you were indoctrinated as a youth to harm and exploit man’s best friend, most people grow a conscience as they reach adulthood. Especially if they’re welcomed into elite society and fortunate enough to earn $20 million dollars a year.
On that note, we can begin with the money men who are in the ready to rehabilitate Vick’s image, solely to rehabilitate their own profits. Following the court hearing in which Vick officially entered his plea, team owner Arthur Blank said "We cannot tell you today that Michael is cut from the team. It may feel better emotionally for us and many of our fans, but it’s not in the long-term best interests of the franchise."
At least he’s being honest! Blank and general manager Rich McKay refused to say that Vick’s career in Atlanta was over, according to news reports. "We cannot undo what’s been done," Blank said. "But we can and will recover from this."
Well, I can now sleep better, knowing that the millions of dollars will continue to flow for the team owner! Shortly afterward, the NFL suspended Vick indefinitely and without pay. Merely associating with gamblers can trigger a lifetime ban under the league’s personal conduct policy. But let’s look at those who have already begun to make Vick an exception to the rules.
The NAACP in Atlanta may have issued one of the earliest and most publicized defenses of Vicks. On August 22nd, after Vick had accepted an offer to plead guilty to conspiracy charges in a dogfighting case, R.L. White, president of the Atlanta chapter of the NAACP, said at a press conference that Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick "made a mistake and should be allowed to prove he has learned from that mistake." (my underlines) White said:
"As a society, we should aid in his rehabilitation and welcome a new Michael Vick back into the community without a permanent loss of his career in football," […] "We further ask the NFL, Falcons, and the sponsors not to permanently ban Mr. Vick from his ability to bring hours of enjoyment to fans all over this country." […] "We feel that whatever the courts demand as a punishment for what he has done, once he has paid his debt to society, then he should be treated like any other person in the NFL."
But other people in the NFL don’t torture defenseless dogs. But then other people may not have the same perspective on the animal as does Mr. White: While saying that his organization condemns dogfighting, he added that he didn’t understand the uproar over dogfighting when hunting deer and others animals is legal. He said he considers dogfighting as bad as hunting. "His crime is, it was a dog," (sic) White said.
Given White’s inability to distinguish between hunting animals and torturing them, or the differences between a trusting domesticated companion animal and wildlife, you might not think he was being facetious when he told reporters, "In some instances, I believe Michael Vick has received more negative press than if he would’ve killed a human being. The way he is being persecuted, he wouldn’t have been persecuted that much had he killed somebody."
The next day (Thursday), in an interview on ESPN Radio, former world champion boxer Roy Jones Jr. echoed R.L. White, saying, "I don’t understand why they’re making it such a big issue," […] "Do you have to take it that far? He ain’t murdered nobody. Let’s move on." Jones added that "I’d really hate to see his whole career get ruined over a mistake he made."
White acknowledged that he had previously used the word "lynching" to describe public reaction to the prosecution of Vick, but denied that he was "playing the race card," saying he simply wanted to make sure Vick was "treated fairly by the public and by the court system."
"Fair treatment" will be among the talking points used by people who want Vick to return to the sport (football that is. Not the other thing he considered a sport.) But they’re intentionally conflating the sort of treatment that Vick should receive from the criminal justice system—whose punishment is limited in duration—with the treatment that society may have to impose on him as a celebrity and role model. The latter (i.e. society) treatment includes his contract with the Falcons, plus the rules of the NFL. Both may include permanent sanctions, and both may include clauses pertaining to public behavior. If the public demands it, the team owner and/or the NFL will have to enforce these rules.
Perhaps the best way to rebut the notion that fair treatment must equate with Vick being restored to the respected status he once held, is to consider the fact that not all types of felony convictions would attract a constituency who would advocate such equivalency. Simply put, had Vick sexually fondled a little boy, there would be no one urging that he eventually be allowed back into the NFL. Except members of NAMBLER, of course.
In other words, if Mr. White is so eager to make comparisons, and claim that torturing dogs to death, and stealing other people’s puppies and kittens and feed them to his Pitbulls, is just as bad as hunting deer, then let’s find out if he also thinks it’s as bad as fondling a little boy. Vick would have served approximately the same sentence for that crime, as he will for abusing and killing dogs. Perhaps even less. Yet had Vick admitted to fondling a little boy, you would never hear White—or the other people you will read in this article—urge that Vick be welcomed back into the sport after he paid his debt to society. And you would not have heard R.L. White refer to what he did as a "mistake"—the word that other apologists used (see below), including Vick himself at his August 27th press conference.
One reason people like White argue a moral equivalence between abusing dogs and hunting deer, or to make a distinction between killing dogs and killing people, is that they simply lack the moral conscience that most people have. They never made a true connection with a companion animal, even if they own one themselves, or have casual contact with them.
The other reason is a single-minded faithfulness to a political agenda. Without making the noxious comparisons that White made, and stopping short of demanding that Vick be allowed back into the NFL, Dennis Courtland Hayes, interim president and CEO of the NAACP, told the Associated Press a day later that "It’s real clear that Mr. Vick himself would acknowledge that he has made a mistake" […] "I think there is reason to believe in his redemption."
The AP reported that Hayes explained that White and others are expressing an overarching frustration with disparities in the criminal justice system, with their defense of Vick. Hayes said:
"People need to understand the backdrop as some in the African-American community make their expressions of support," […] "That backdrop includes anger and distrust with the criminal justice system that disproportionately pays attention to African-Americans and Hispanics." […] "While no dog deserves to be mistreated, the backdrop includes the perception among some African-Americans that the criminal justice system treats them like animals and that nobody seems willing to do anything about the disparity."
Hayes said the national NAACP did not have an official position on the case, and that he didn’t want to speculate about whether Vick was being treated differently because he is black.
R.L. White of the Atlanta chapter had made remarks the day before implying that Vick was being wrongly prosecuted, and he challenged the testimony of Vick’s co-conspirators. While Hayes doesn’t go that far, he attempts to come to White’s aid by informing everyone that our criminal justice system is racist. Although unwilling to "speculate" that any of this racism applies to the Vick affair.
Self-contradictory remarks aside, African Americans must question whether or not they want people who claim to represent their interests, to hitch their wagon to the case involving Vick. Each time advocates for blacks, or for civil rights, had associated themselves with dubious cases—from Tawana Brawley, to O.J. Simpson, to Michael Jackson—they lost credibility with the public. As a result of these poor choices, more white Americans may have had less sympathy when real instances came along involving unequal justice based on race.
The NAACP can advocate that there’s unequal justice without linking it to Vick’s case. Aside from the absence of any reason to justify the link, it would be more effective tactically.
On Tuesday, Aug. 21, sports columnist Stephen A. Smith appeared as a guest on MS-NBC’s Hardball, following Michael Vick’s announcement that he will plead guilty to dogfighting and gambling charges. Smith frequently provided analysis on ESPN, and hosts his own sports radio talk show. Guest host Mike Barnicle asked the question, "should Vick be banned from pro football for life?" Smith replied:
"No, I don’t think he should be banned for life. […] What Michael Vick has done and what he has pled guilty to obviously is heinous. We all recognize that. And he’s going to do his time. But this is the United States of America. I call it the land of second chances. And, if you go to jail, and you do your time and you pay your penance, then, obviously, you should be allowed to come back and pursue whatever kind of life is available to you.
Smith minimized the gambling charge, saying that Vick was not betting on football, then remarked:
"But, in terms of the commissioner, the commissioner is more concerned with the fact that he was involved in this in any way, shape, form, or fashion, in terms of hanging dogs, drowning dogs, and-I mean, all of that stuff, that is what is concerning them. And that is what they’re really cringing over, the fact that he was involved in that kind of stuff. Had he just been betting, certainly, he would have been punished, but it wouldn’t be frowned upon to the level that it is being frowned upon today."
"But what you’re calling for is a lifetime ban. What you’re saying is that the National Football League should never again allow him to play professional football and represent their league. And all I’m saying is, is that that goes against the very fabric of our society, because it is saying that we’re not going to give you a second chance."
Stephen A. Smith is a black sports writer, and like other Vick defenders, admits to Vick having committed a technical violation of law, but then makes dubious parallels to the court of public opinion. He misses the point that one is indeed due a "second chance" once out of prison. But only at a decent life. No one has a right to fame and fortune.
WNYC AM Radio
New York Times sports columnist William C. Rhoden went a great deal further than Smith, when he was interviewed by Amy Edding on WNYC AM on August 23rd. He told Edding that he agreed with NAACP’s R.L. White that Vick should be allowed back into the NFL. Incredibly, Rhoden cited columnists who plagiarized, as examples of people who were given second chances! He even compared Don Imus’ poor choice of words one day to what Vick did to dogs, and said that if you forgive Imus, you have to forgive Vick. But he also went off into other strange tangents. My comments follow these excerpts:
Rhoden: There’s so much pressure on the judge surrounding this case. The animal rights people—I don’t want to marginalize them—but they have done an outstanding job of working with the federal government to make this a huge national issue. So even if there was some inclination on the judge’s part to give him [Vick] leniency, I think judge Hudson would be hard-pressed to give him anything less than a hard sentence.
Rhoden: I keep looking at this Amy…I look at this national brouhaha and I’m thinking man, I think they’re a little over the top here. I mean, dog fighting is vicious, but it’s also something that’s nationwide, ugh where do they go after this? I don’t eat meat, and if you ever visited the slaughter houses…the treatment of cows, of cattle, of lambs…I mean it’s awful.
Amy Edding: Right, but that’s not an illegal enterprise.
Rhoden: It’s not illegal. But it’s cruel, it’s inhumane. And I think there are a lot of…if we want to marshall our forces….I guess what I’m saying is that if this is going to be a full-scale assault on animal fighting in the United States, then I’m all for it, I’m down with it. Let’s declare war, let’s get rid of….Amy, I don’t think that’s what this is about. I think this is about Michael Vick, I think this is about getting Michael Vick. He’s a big trophy; they got him, ugh he broke the law, he’s gunna have to do his time, I’m not arguing that….
Amy: Who’s the they here? The NFL? The sports media? The Americans who love to see icons fall?
Rhoden: Clearly the federal government got involved in this. They had their sights on the target. They built a tremendous case. And my test is are they gunna go beyond this? You know, are they gunna go from coast to coast, from north to south, from east to west, and eradicate this heinous practice of dog fighting that’s been in this country for 3 or 400 years. Are they gunna do this, or is it gunna stop with high-profile, Michael Vick?
Well, it’s hard to believe that Rhoden is speaking with the benefit of knowing that Vick had already announced his guilt. You also have to wonder if Rhoden didn’t get his morning coffee or something! These are not the authoritative remarks one expects from a New York Times correspondent. I’ve read less speculation in an Arthur C. Clarke novel! But I’ll be charitable an suggest the possibility that as a sports writer, he’s out of his element on legal affairs. Nevertheless, he comes closest to adopting the discredited O.J. defense for Vick:
He suggests that Vick was targeted by the government—working with animal rights activists, no less! because Vick was a high-profile trophy for federal prosecutors. If you believe this, you also have to believe that everyone in the Atlanta U.S. Attorneys office are white people, and that there are white professional football players who are violating any of the plethora of federal codes (at the felony level), for which U.S. attorneys across the country are ignoring. Isn’t it just possible, Mr. Rhoden, that Vick was prosecuted simply because it was Vick who was foolish enough to commit a type of crime that would so easily come to the attention of the authorities? Like conspiring with low-lives who had less to lose and could easily flip on him, or mingling with spectators at dog fighting rings? That didn’t occur to Mr. Rhoden?
Rhoden is right about one thing: There aren’t many federal prosecutions for dogfighting. According to Syracuse University’s "TRAC" program, there were only 6 prosecutions between Fiscal Year 2002 and the first half of FY 2007. But he’s wrong that Vick is in a jam now because he was specially targeted. There appears to be 3 reasons why Vick is in a jam: (1) The cruel business he was running was vast. The police found, for example, 50 Pitbull terriers on his estate, waiting to be killed because no one would buy them to have them fight. (2) His co-conspirators all testified in exchange for plea agreements. That left Vick claiming his innocence until the end, and thus inheriting the worst of the deals being offered. And that left prosecutors with an easy case to win. And (3), Vick was very famous. Just famous. Not a famous black man.
While R.L. White of the NAACP doesn’t appear to understand the difference between deer hunting and torturing dogs, Rhoden has the same problem by equating the latter with what allegedly occurs in slaughterhouses. (He didn’t elaborate.) In other words, only vegans have the moral authority to criticize what Vick had done! If Rhoden is so inclined to make fatuous comparisons, I would ask him the same question I asked R.L. White: Would he permit Rick back into the league if he were a pedophile?
I’ll say this for Rhoden: At least he didn’t misapply the word "mistake" to refer to Vick’s animal abuse.
But leave it to NPR to fan the flames of racism and capture what is NOT relevant in the Vick affair. On August 22, after the indictment was released, but before Vick pled guilty, NPR asked the question:
"Is support for Vick in the black community based solely on his race, or on a broader belief that he’s just the latest high-profile black man to be vilified in the media?" – http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=13859969
Four black people discussed the issue: NPR correspondent Allison Keyes moderated the discussion with guests, Michael Eric Dyson, author and Georgetown University professor; Mark Gray, radio host of Sports Groove on WOL-AM; and Katheryn Russell-Brown, author and law professor at the University of Florida.
They all agreed that Vick should not be banned from football indefinitely, and half the time, all of them were able to adopt—with the benefit of the way the topic question was phrased—a crafty means to express their opinion, but claim it to be the opinion of the "black community."
Dyson said Vick should face the criminal charges, "but why should Vick be the test case, or be singled out for harsher punishment?" That is a straw man argument to get white people on the defensive. An old tactic, but it still works.
Not satisfied with merely baiting white people, Gray went further than Dyson: "In the African-American community, I think there would be more of an anti-Vick sentiment if we were dealing with the killing of people, as opposed to animals" Guess what, Mr. Gray, so would white people. But what Gray is suggesting here is that blacks may have a higher tolerance for animal cruelty than whites do. Else what is the purpose of making such a comparison?
Not to be outdone, Brown brought up the Duke lacrosse players and claimed that because they were white, there was not a rush to judgment alleging their guilt. Well, apparently this woman was living in an isolated cave during the months that the entire liberal establishment, from the NY Times, right down to the faculty and student body of Duke University, had claimed the boys were guilty, even before a single indictment was handed down. At least the team owner waited for an indictment of Vick before suspending him. Those "white" lacrosse players and their team coach were canned before the corrupt Durham D.A. Mike Nifong indicted the boys. And no one can argue that had the boys been black—with the same circumstances involving Nifong’s wrongful and fraudulent prosecution—we would still be discussing it today.
Brown added, "It’s interesting to note that you can see who’s mostly despised in this country by looking at the headlines. It seems to be O.J., Barry Bonds and Michael Vick. Do you see a pattern?" I doubt anyone sees a pattern from that description. Her allegation may have had merit had she been able to cite a cohort—meaning of equal fame and stature—of white athletes for whom the press gave them a free pass for comparable transgressions. Despite that flaw, Dyson said he totally agreed with Brown on that point.
Moderator Allison Keyes, adding more fuel to the racial fire, then asked, "In the Atlanta Journal Constitution, some of the people commenting, imply that not only are whites out to destroy him [Vick], but that as a black celebrity, you’re supposed to leave your poor past and your friends from the hood behind you. Do you think that has a lot to do with what’s going on here?" Brown responded, "I do", and then went on to set up a straw man, claiming that the black community feels that Vick "has the right to due process and presumption of innocence, which does not condone animal cruelty."
Thus, before she threw in that straw man argument at the end, it appears Ms. Brown agreed with Ms. Keyes’ premise that average black people embrace and accept dog fighting in their neighborhoods, and that Vick should not be expected to leave his "poor past and his friends" behind, just because he’s rich now. Wow. That’s what a white racist might say! I happen to live in a mostly black neighborhood, and grew up in one. All the black people I’ve ever known loved and respected their companion animals. The black woman and family that I’ve been closest to for over 3 decades have rescued and sheltered cats, dogs, ferrets, squirrels, pigeons, parrots, and turtles. Only members and associates of gangs and criminals are involved in dog fighting. Either Ms. Brown identifies with gangs, or she believes most black people do.
What Brown agreed to is also very similar to the remark made by actor Jaime Fox that same week. He minimized Vick’s dog fighting enterprise as a "cultural thing", and said that the brother just didn’t understand what not to do as a black star.
We can dismiss Fox’s opinion. He’s just a dumb actor; not an academic. But what about Alton H. Maddox, a New York civil rights activist who was disbarred for his role in the Tawana Brawley case, who made a similar claim when he said that Vick was being targeted because "he is not an assimilationist."?!
All of these remarks are degrading to black people. It is not a "cultural thing" in the black community to torture dogs. When we see the face of a dog looking up at us, it is innate to human beings to want to hug that animal. Not allow it to be ripped to shreds for the purposes of betting. One can bet on almost anything. Why this?! This particular excuse—among the many that has been offered—must be condemned.
But the over-the-top, lunatic prize belongs to Dyson, who said:
"Lassie stayed on the air for 15 years. Nat King Cole couldn’t stay on his show for 6 months. Dogs and animals—relatively speaking—have been treated with greater respect and regard, even from animal lovers, than African American people. When you get hurricane Katrina, they have a famous picture of a bus full of dogs and animals being treated to first class, citizenship rights in America, while black people were drowning." […] "To put dogs and animals parallel to black people is the extension of the legacy of slavery, not it’s contradiction."
The reason this statement is so outrageous—aside from it being based on complete nonsense—is that the only people who are comparing the human rights of dogs to those of black people is Dyson and his cohorts!
Mark Gray had just previously made the comparison, when he said blacks would be angrier with Vick had he killed "people, as opposed to animals" (see above).
It’s Dyson and his ilk who are the ones who are trying to establish some equivalence, and to boot, are using questionable examples and anecdotes to support it. The fact that Lassie remained on TV longer than Cole means white America is racist?! Then how did Oprah last longer than Donahue? (Jeez, now he has me doing it!) The pathetic thing about this exercise is that Dyson is considered an African American scholar and intellectual.
Aside from making such noxious comparisons is the fact that Dyson’s claim is patently untrue. Residents of New Orleans were forced to leave their pets behind, or else they were not permitted to board the rescue vehicles. It was dogs—not blacks—who were left to drown. And most of the dogs were owned by blacks, some of whom refused to leave them behind, or else stayed behind to remain with their animals.
It is also unseemly to make comparisons of victims, and which victims society cares for the most. It’s the old Jewish holocaust vs. African American slavery argument that Dyson is raising here. And his only support for such an argument is the implication that the animal rescuers were all white (false), and that they would pass by drowning black people to rescue their dogs (also false). This is a slap in the face of the hundreds of people who came to New Orleans, and placed their own lives at risk to save (the literally) thousands of animals released from shelters or left in their owner’s homes. For Dyson to criticize their choices is to criticize cancer charities for ignoring AIDS; or to criticize the work of civic associations for ignoring resistance to the Iraq war. To compare which endeavors are more moral or useful is an insult to all people of conscience who place a cause above their own concerns.
For Dyson to claim that white Americans treat dogs "with greater respect and regard than African American people", and then to support this opinion with a fictional portrayal of unpaid volunteers rescuing animals "while black people were drowning" is unbefitting an academic scholar. And it’s factually incorrect: The bulk of the Katrina animal rescue operation really got started in earnest many days after every human resident was rescued and cared for. In fact, one of the organizers of the program is still engaged in rescuing, sheltering and finding homes for dogs abandoned in New Orleans. His short response to Dyson can be read in the Postscript at the end of this article.
Worst Person in the World
Leaving the most fatuous example for last, we have Keith Olbermann—a sportscaster who is the host of the nightly political commentary show (but with a news format), Countdown on MS-NBC, and was recently given anchor assignments for NBC outside of his regular show.
Given that Countdown garners the lowest ratings of any primetime cable news show, many people probably don’t know who he is. The best analog to Mr. Olbermann is the character Oliver Crangle, played by the great actor Theordore Bikel, from the old Twilight Zone Episode, "Four O’Clock".
Scifilm.org provides a synopsis of this episode, which first aired on April 6, 1962:
Mr. Oliver Crangle is on a great crusade: nothing less than the complete eradication of evil from the world! Crangle is utterly dedicated to this great goal. Every day he scans newspapers, listens to radio broadcasts, and otherwise keeps detailed records on vast numbers of people. Those whom he considers weak, evil and unfit are to be destroyed, usually through innuendo, rumor and hearsay. With only his parrot Pete as his friend, he tirelessly pursues his project.
Yet now Crangle is on the verge of his ultimate breakthrough. He believes he has achieved the power to turn all the evil people of the world into two-foot tall midgets, thus eliminating their threat! At precisely the hour of four o’clock, Crangle will unleash this awesome power on the world.
Is Crangle a deranged madman…or does he really have this power? The answers lie in, The Twilight Zone.
That just about sums up Countdown. It’s a show which primarily serves the ego of Olbermann—who imagines himself as the current day version of Edward R. Murrow—and whose mission it is to identify political villains for the angry left, to get angry at. I suppose if someone made a remake of this episode, then NBC News Correspondent David Schuster would be best cast as Crangle’s parrot, Pete. He and Olbermann would identify Republicans as the evil people, in the nightly Countdown segment, "Worst Person in the World." But as politically correct liberals, they would have to turn them into something other than "midgets".
What has become a popular feature for Mr. Olbermann’s dwindling left-leaning audience is his angry tirades, reminiscent of the fictional news anchor Howard Beale, from the movie, Network. The notable variance that parts from Paddy Chayefsky’s Oscar-winning script is that Mr. Olbermann’s angry commentaries (billed as "Special Comments") has not catapulted Countdown to the top of the ratings.
Anyway, on his August 27th Countdown show, Mr. Olbermann filed an update of a Special Comment on the Vick affair. It was an abridged version of the commentary he delivered about Vick during the half-time segment of NBC’s Sunday-night football game that weekend. It was an uninhibited—and of course, angry—reprimand to those who do not want to see Vick return to professional sports.
Following that commentary, I understand NBC was deluged with angry calls from viewers, probably because most sports fans just want to have fun watching the game—without the vitriol that accompanies Mr. Olbermann’s brand of politics. Fortunately for NBC, both Bob Costas and Cris Collingsworth were on hand to soften the blow and offer explanations. But NBC still pulled Mr. Olbermann’s commentary off of youtube.com.
All we have left is the transcript of the short version of the commentary he delivered on Countdown. [Complete show transcript located at – http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20477314/]
My commentary to his remarks are inserted into the text, and are underscored:
OLBERMANN: The crimes for which football star Michael Vick agreed to a plea bargain obviously constitute the overarching horror of the story. But on Friday, Vick somehow managed to make it a little worse while accepting a prison sentence of up to 18 months and acknowledging he bankrolled the entirety of an illegal dogfighting operation. The document he signed stated specifically that he personally did not gamble on dogfights, personally did not receive proceeds from dogfights, and personally, quote, "did not kill any dogs." Suddenly, on top of the crime, here was an admission of guilt that seemed to admit very little guilt.
Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, over the weekend, the sports world seemed to collectively demand something more contrite from Michael Vick.
The noteworthy aspect of this scandal is that there has been silence from within the sport. Not even the NFL Players Association has commented on the affair, let alone "collectively demand something more contrite from Michael Vick."
And this morning, to the surprise of many, he evidently delivered.
First Mr. Olbermann says it was an "admission of guilt that seemed to admit very little guilt." Now he’s saying that Vick had "delivered."
The somber-looking Atlanta Falcons quarterback walking into federal court today in Richmond, Virginia, for the formal part of the conspiracy charges against him, Vick quietly responding to the judgeâ€˜s questions only with, "No, sir," and "Yes, sir," before pleading guilty, the judge reminding him that could mean five years in prison. The prosecutors want a year to 18 months. Vick again answering, "Yes, sir."
After a judge scheduled sentencing for December 10, Vick, without a prepared statement, stood alone before reporters and said he wanted to speak from his heart.
What Mr. Olbermann means is that Vick didn’t read from a piece of paper. That’s all. But this article showed in the first section that it was a carefully-worded, contrived statement—hardly "from his heart."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL VICK, NFL PRO QUARTERBACK: I want to apologize to all of the young kids out there for my immature acts. And what I did was very immature, so that means I need to grow up.
Dogfighting is a terrible thing, and I did reject it. Iâ€˜m upset with myself. And through this situation, I found Jesus, and I asked him for forgiveness, and I turned my life over to God. I accept the responsibility for my actions and what I did, and now I have to pay the consequences for it, but in a sense I think it will help, you know, me as a person. Iâ€˜ve got a lot to think about in the next year or so. And I offer my deepest apologies to anybody out there in the world who was affected by this whole situation.`
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: A brief thought on what Michael Vick has done and what Michael Vick has now said, an update of sorts, if you saw my commentary at half-time of NBCâ€˜s coverage of the Sunday night football game. Those who hate Vick have made no secret they expect the judge at sentencing on December 10th and the commissioner of the National Football League, as soon as possible thereafter, to punish him with the lengthiest prison term, the heaviest fine, the most definite of indefinite suspensions. And hereâ€˜s why they are wrong.
Stop right there. Please take note that Mr. Olbermann failed to red-flag the contrived, self-serving phrases by Vick, which I had described earlier. "Immature acts" include toilet-papering someone’s lawn. Torturing and killing dogs and small animals are "inhumane acts." Do you see the difference, sir? And if slamming dogs to the ground until they can no long breath is what Mr. Olbermann agrees is "a terrible thing", then what other acts would he describe as "abhorrent", or "repugnant", or "repulsive", or "inhumane"? And does Mr. Olbermann really believe that Vick’s sociopathic behavior can be undone after Vick will "think about in the next year or so"?! And when was the last time Mr. Olbermann ever accepted a mea culpa from a Republican who announced he will seek God’s forgiveness and "turned his life over to God"?
If you hate him, the equation should be pretty simple: His $130-million-dollar contract is gone.
Mr. Olbermann is disingenuous, to put it mildly. He covers sports for ESPN. He knows that press reports indicate that the Falcon owners claim between $20 and $28 million in roster bonuses may be subject to forfeiture. But no one knows how they came up with that high figure. If converted roster bonus money is not included, and if the 2006 CBA is applied retroactively, the most the Falcons can get is the remaining three years’ proration of his $7.5 million signing bonus, which equates to $3.75 million. If the prior CBA does apply, the Falcons can recover $5.75 million. The bottom line is that Vick remains fabulously wealthy.
His freedom is gone. His reputation is gone.
But unlike the dogs and small animals he killed and maimed, Vick is still breathing and not missing any meals.
We already know what he is. We are now just arguing about the price. And that real price comes due after jail and after the suspension, when Michael Vick tries to return to football in 2010, maybe 2009, but the sooner the better.
Some of you must be scratching your head at this: If Mr. Olbermann really does "know what he is", then why would he say that the sooner Vick returns to football, the better? Because Mr. Olbermann is a guilty white liberal who denigrates blacks through his condescension towards them. They need affirmative action for getting into school, and for being punished for misdeeds. To Mr. Olbermann, Vick and any other black quarterback is another Jackie Robinson—a representative of all the blacks who used to be excluded from the sport. And the lowering of standards for blacks today is the reparations Mr. Olbermann feels—as the ultimate arbiter of what is just—society must pay. Put simply, had Vick been white, this Special Comment would not have been written.
No NFL miscreant has been so vilified while an active player, not gunplay and trouble at strip clubs veteran Pacman Jones, not serial batterer and general troublemaker Lawrence Phillips, not turned state’s evidence against his friends in a mturder trial Ray Lewis, not a drunk driver who killed a mother, Leonard Little, in 1998 and was then arrested anew for driving drunk, Leonard Little in 2004.Â Â
This statement is confirmation that Mr. Olbermann does not appreciate the gravity of inhumane behavior that shocks the conscience. MenÂ who are prone to alcoholism or rowdy behavior are driven by neuroses, or sometimes, metabolic or dietary malfunctions. Manslaughter, which was one of the things Mr. Olbermann enumerated, is death that occurs absent of intent. Indeed, it is the result of negligence most often. These things are beyond the victim’s control, and most of us understand them, even though we may deem the resultant behavior unpalatable. Even the lowly pedophile is driven by sexual urges, which eclipses the normal empathy he would have for the child’s welfare. We understand the power of, and adverse consequences attendant to succumbing to sexual urges. But the ability to intentionally, and violently, and with great pain, snuff out the life of an innocent dog is a psychopathology—not a mere neurosis—and one which we have no direct understanding of. It’s foreign. It scares us. It is devoid of all compassion, and driven by none of the aforementioned human failings which we can understand, and sometimes experience ourselves.
Because even in a football world where just a week ago a scout could still compliment Corey Ivy of the Baltimore Ravens by calling him a, quote, "pit bull with a gold cap," no other crime has been so viscerally felt and reviled and none gone so unforgiven, and a year in the big house or two under suspension will not change that, except to postpone the next enraged protest, for whenever he comes out, whenever he tries to come back, PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and the publicâ€˜s memory of what he did for dogs for the sake of fun and games will come back, as well.
You’re all style and flash, Mr. Olbermann. The polls indicate that you are in the minority. The rest of us feel that sports teaches and promotes character and integrity. If we indulge Vick’s—and your—desire to restore Vick to the privileged position he once held, we would debase that which sports should represent. Denying a man privilege is a small penalty to save the sport he disgraced. Also, you need a lesson in the meaning of zero tolerance, sir. We reserve that criteria for that which society considers intolerable. We don’t tolerate crimes perpetrated against classes of people, known as hate crimes. We impose high penalties to demonstrate that, and deny to the perpetrators any minuscule trace of justification for their actions. Thus, we don’t listen to the rationales of anti-Semitic killers, or the excuses from terrorists. The horror of the crime, and the intent, are the distinguishing features. What is important to Vick now is not getting another chance to rejoin the elites. Instead, he needs to acheive personal redemption. Do you now see the difference, sir?
Initially, in his convoluted, lawyered-up, and agent-approved guilty plea last week, his "I didnâ€˜t actually kill any dogs myself; I only told others to" statement, Vick seemed to not understand that his only hope was to absorb and retain as much guilt as possible, that any chance of redemption for him depended entirely on his willingness to take responsibility and blame and punishment.
Thus, his statement today, "I want to apologize for all the things that Iâ€˜ve done and that I have allowed to happen" was exactly the right start. He did not repeat the nuance and the loophole-filled admission. He did not Pete Rose it.
With due respect, sir, you are wrong on both counts. First, his latter statement was non-specific, and didn’t take sufficient responsibility for killing dogs. Second, he surpassed Rose! He carefully chose tame words like my immature acts; I made a mistake; we all make mistakes; bad judgment; bad decisions; a terrible thing to describe his actions. He avoided uttering the obvious and appropriate terms "inhumane", "unconscionable", etc. Words that the press and public were attributing to him for weeks. So he at least knew what he was, even though he couldn’t come clean with the appropriate words to describe what he did—your delusional interpretation notwithstanding.
And now comes the tough part. Donâ€˜t get me wrong. He is Michael Vick, not Michael Victim. But if you think him evil, you should still be rooting for him to be returned to football as soon as possible, returned from the Hell of incarceration and the Hell of suspension to the Hell of life as Michael Vick, would-be quarterback, pleading for a pro job while the hounds of public approbation are nipping at his heels.
A callous choice of words. Hounds nipping at his heels, Mr. Olbermann? Are you sure you wish to use that analogy? And as a callous, angry person that you are, it is natural for you to feel that this is about punishing Vick, as opposed to protecting the integrity of the sport. Because it is your inclination, sir, week after week, drenched in your own sanctimony, to vilify and punish all who you deem evil, as had Theodore Bikel’s Mr. Oliver Crangle. Vick is not evil. He is to be pitied. He has a human failing—something that is missing. It’s a something that makes the rest of us human. Some people are color-blind. Vick is blind to compassion.
The first event occurred on October 11, 2000, when a stray rotweiler entered the Loving Care daycare center in Jamaica, Queens and bit and mauled 2 children, aged 2 and 4 years. This horrible incident could have been prevented. Hungry stray dogs are not usually this vicious. They have to be trained to behave that way.
Early in 1998, significant humane legislation died in Albany, New York because liberal Democrats in the Assembly opposed it. While the law would have increased penalties for all kinds of animal abuse, it focused particularly on the escalating practice by gangs involved with dog fighting competitions. The bill died because Assembly Leader Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) argued that the law would have been disproportionately enforced against African-American youth.
To extend that "logic", perhaps we should repeal the homicide laws because they’re disproportionately enforced against people who murder! In fact, as the attack at the daycare center shows, these laws are intended to increase the safety for the community, as well as prevent cruelty to animals. This is how ridiculous political correctness places innocent lives at risk.
My state senator, Frank Padavan, had written the anti-dogfighting bill. He has authored more animals rights and humane legislation in his 36 years in the senate than anyone in the history of the state. And as a Republican, Mr. Olbermann would likely deem him evil. But in fact, it is guilty white liberals—the Olbermanns of this world—who debase those good principles which they claim to uphold.
Michael Vick had his shot at the top of the heap. No one else is responsible for him losing that shot. Now Vick must take responsibility for his actions through the legal system. And at a point when he demonstrates that he has earned forgiveness, then people are free to forgive him.
But society must take responsibility by sending the right message to young people with regards to what it considers abhorrent, and to demonstrate it through zero tolerance. That simply means that Vick may do whatever he wants with the remainder of his life, except be restored to the exalted status he once held. Because professional sports must be more than about performance. It should be about character.
Those who have called for Vick to be allowed back into the sport at this early stage—before Vick even demonstrates redemptive qualities—should be repudiated. For Vick will never succeed on his own to return as a quarterback in the NFL. He will need help from others.
I hope this article—dedicated to the late Munchkin, Mellow and Mango—succeeded in showing that arguments by Vick’s apologists have no merit.
Â©2007 Gary Krasner