Vick’s transformation is a sham

by Jim Longworth

A few weeks ago I promised myself that I wouldn’t write another column about Michael Vick. My rantings about animal abusers, it seemed, were a waste of time because most people just don’t care about the unspeakable things the NFL star did that briefly landed him in prison. “He served his time”, they say, “He speaks to school groups. He’s reformed”. But as an animal lover, it is hard to put the images of those burned, hanged and tortured dogs out of my mind, especially when Vick or someone in his entourage does something to refuel my outrage.

Back in December, Vick told NBC News “I would love to get another dog.” That brought on a groundswell of support for QB7, including kind words from President Obama, and the hypocritical president of the National Humane Society who coincidentally accepted a large cash gift from the Philadelphia Eagles just before he heaped praise on Mr. Vick. It seemed that everyone was buying into Vick’s reformation, but I was certain that this despicable man hadn’t changed his spots, and that his lectures to young people were nothing but a PR scam. Now there’s proof to back up my allegations.

Earlier this month, Vick received the key to the city of Dallas from Mayor Pro Tem Dwayne Caraway. The gesture was not only offensive to animal lovers, but also to Cowboys fans who weren’t too keen on honoring a rival player. But for one man, radio reporter Richard Hunter, the ceremony presented the chance of a lifetime. Hunter and his wife had adopted one of the dogs that survived Vick’s torture camp. The couple named the dog Mel, and Richard wanted to ask Mel’s previous owner a few questions. Hunter had heard Vick say during a televised interview that he “still thinks about the dogs,” so naturally the reporter assumed the reformed dog fighter would want to see a photo of a now healthy Mel. Hunter was wrong. It seems that Vick is only contrite when standing in front of a judge, a school group or a network TV camera. Fortunately for us, and unbeknownst to Michael, Hunter captured the pair’s backstage encoun ter on a cell phone camera.

As Vick and his posse headed for the exit, Hunter said, “Mike, I adopted one of your dogs. Can I talk with you?” There was no response from Vick, just a blank stare. Undaunted, Hunter repeated his statement, and again, no reply from the man who publicly announced that he still thinks about his dogs. Then, Hunter began to ask his question for a third time when one of Vick’s associates restrained the reporter, saying, “Get the f*** out of my face!” Despite being manhandled, Hunter persisted, “But Michael, you said you still care about the dogs, now’s your chance to talk.” Vick’s goon then spoke for his boss: “Hey, we don’t care about the dogs.” Hunter tried one last time to elicit a response by showing Vick a photo of Mel the rescue dog. But it was like talking to a wall. Vick stared at the photo, said nothing, then walked away.

If this telling scene sounds eerily familiar, it is. Appearing on a television program last year, the quarterback was asked what the Michael Vick of 2010 would have said to the Michael

Vick of 2006. Said Michael, “The Vick of 2006 wouldn’t listen to anything I had to say. It would be like talking to the wall. The old Mike would have probably walked away.”

So now we know that the Mike of 2011 is the same as the Mike of 2006, only worse. Now he has everyone fooled into believing he’s the victim, and has become a faux role model for kids in the process. The problem is that those kids, like most adult fans, never get to see what Vick actually did to his dogs. Out of sight, out of mind.

And so, once again I call on the NFL and educators alike to show photos of the tortured pets every time Vick’s image appears on television, or in a school gym. Perhaps the hero worship would end when kids of all ages are confronted with the actual crimes Michael Vick committed. Maybe if they saw those horrific images juxtaposed with the man standing in front of them, they would do what Mike does. Just walk away.

Jim Longworth is the host of “Triad Today,” airing on Fridays at 6:30 a.m. on ABC 45 (cable channel 7) and Sundays at 10 p.m. on WMYV (cable channel 15).