At the end of the NFL season, the league will hold the annual all-star game in the 2020 Pro Bowl. This game isn't much of a talking point each season beyond some fans critiquing the overall quality, but the latest iteration will be vastly different. Hundreds of thousands of fans are on a mission to get former NFL quarterback Michael Vick removed from the game.
A petition surfaced late last week with the goal of having Vick removed from his position as honorary captain of the Pro Bowl. The league wants to feature him while discussing his playmaking ability that led to four appearances in the all-star game, but many fans are angry about him being honored.
Best known as the former first overall pick of the Atlanta Falcons (2001), Vick was absent from the league for two years after pleading guilty to federal charges in a dog fighting investigation. Vick was suspended indefinitely without pay from the NFL but later returned in 2009 as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Mike Vick does not deserve the honor of being Pro Bowl Captain. He is a convicted felon and a known animal abuser, is this who we want our children to look up to? Disney, how could you condone this?? There are so many players that have made amazing contribution to society, however Michael Vick is not one of them.
There are multiple petitions on Change.org, both of which have hundreds of thousands of signatures. The overwhelming response on the petition website has been football fans and pet owners condemning Vick for his actions. On social media, however, the conversation is quite different.
(Photo Credit: Bob Levey/Getty)
Did wrong. Got caught. Paid dues. Yet folks continue to punish him?— Come Back Shane! (@ShaneTKaatz) December 7, 2019
Following Michael Vick pleading guilty to the dog fighting charges against him, he spent 21 months in federal prison. For many football fans, this time was enough of a punishment for the former Atlanta Falcons quarterback. They wanted to move on and focus on other matters.
However, this was not a universal opinion shared by animal lovers and football fans. There were many that did not want to forgive Vick for his previous actions. These two viewpoints ultimately clashed and resulted in multiple arguments.
Good. Killers do not just change their ways. He still feels anyone small, subservient, or what he considers not good enough he justifies beating or killing. He’s the same as other violent men - both in and out of the NFL. Their behavior often starts w/animal torture.— [Redacted]🆘🕚🔱 (@CkPetrillo) December 9, 2019
Michael Vick certainly had many supporters in this debate about him appearing in the Pro Bowl. However, there was a significant number of people that agreed with the petition. In their opinions, the former NFL quarterback was not capable of making a change following his time in prison.
Specifically, some that signed the petition believe that Vick's decision to abuse animals was just something in his being and that it was still present in 2019. In their opinion, he still has the desire to hurt – or even kill – these dogs.
What he did was terrible, but he paid the price, went to prison, lost tons of $, and very importantly has used the experience to make a genuine positive mark on the world since his release. I love animals deeply, but aren’t we supposed to believe in justice and rehabilitation?— Jonah Paquette, PsyD (@doctorpaquette) December 8, 2019
Since his sentencing and ultimate release from prison, Michael Vick has been a divisive figure due to the charges against him. Some believe that he has paid the price for his crimes while others can't believe that he is being honored by the NFL. Although many of these conversations hinge upon the reported work that Vick has done to prevent future animal abuse.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, Vick partnered with Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States upon his release from prison. He created two video public-service announcements to stop animal cruelty and later spoke at inner-city schools about the culture that leads to dog fighting. For some fans, it's not enough while others are satisfied with the work he has done.
Wonder if those 200k ppl know how much time and $$ he gives to the @HumaneSociety and speaking to kids about this topic across the country. He's been giving back for over a decade. Hate and resentment will corrode your soul - #forgiveness— Brandon George (@icmyserenity) December 9, 2019
Is Michael Vick worthy of forgiveness for the actions that landed him in federal prison, or is he someone that can never change? Thousands supported each side of the discussion, and many opted to express their opinions via Twitter arguments. However, there was a common theme among many of Vick's supporters.
As multiple users wrote, they wanted to know the amount of research that was done prior to signing the petition. There have been a considerable number of articles written about the former NFL quarterback in recent years, so there is plenty of information available.
Wait....How are there 200,000 signatures? They can't even get half of that many to even WATCH the ProBowl!— STR8 Homah Sports (@STR8Homah) December 8, 2019
While the majority of the debates taking place on social media revolved around whether or not Vick deserves a second chance, there was a very different view being expressed. For many fans, they were shocked at the number of signatures on the petition, but not for the expected reason.
What caught many off-guard is that there were 200,000 people concerned about the Pro Bowl and whether or not Vick would be an honorary captain. The annual all-star game has long drawn criticism from football fans, and many simply avoid watching it in favor of anything else.
Over 334k of us have signed. Yeah, he served time, but that doesn’t mean he gets to be honored after what he did. He tortured innocent animals by electrocution—slow and agonizing, & his own pets. I’m no angel, but it’s still pure evil, & his views on it probably haven’t changed.— Justin🇺🇸🍊 (@justinmsexton) December 8, 2019
A large number of responses to this petition were that Michael Vick has served his time in prison and has earned a second chance. Many said to let him live his life now that the incidents are more than a decade in the past. However, some did not accept this opinion.
As some critics of Vick said, they accepted that he has served time. However, they didn't believe that this was an excuse to honor the former quarterback during the Pro Bowl.
But they have nothing to say about Robert Kraft of Ben Rothlisberger. They can go kick rocks— J Holmes, MD (@JHolmes_MD) December 7, 2019
One of the more common responses to this petition was that some fans couldn't believe the outrage over animal abuse as opposed to other alleged incidents involving other NFL players. Specifically, they wanted to know why Vick was being condemned while prominent figures facing allegations of sexual assault or prostitution were not facing criticism.
In the opinions of many football fans, they believed that there were inconsistencies in the outrage. They wanted the response to be universal instead of varying from player to player.