Dan Shannon, PETA National Spokesman on Michael Vick’s Signing
by Michael Bean
You know the story by now – Michael Vick has been signed by the Philadelphia Eagles as of late last week. The decision to sign the beleaguered former star ends all speculation about whether or not Vick would, or for that matter even deserved, another chance at playing in the National Football League. Since then, Sports Radio Interviews has brought you a collection of the collective reaction of female Philadelphia Eagles fans, we’ve heard Vick address the media as an official member of the Eagles, and we’ve heard his recently appointed mentor, Tony Dungy, on WIP in Philadelphia talk about Vick’s big second chance in the City of Brotherly Love.
That’s the side of the story about redemption, remorse and rehabilitation. And I applaud the media for presenting this side of the Michael Vick now that he’s finally been given the chance to redeem his credibility as a humane person, a law-abiding citizen and professional football player after the months..excuse me, years…of negative opining about Vick and his involvement in a dog fighting cartel. Nevertheless, to complete the coverage of Vick’s signing with Philadelphia, it would only be…uhh, not sure what the right word is because though I adore animals, I can’t take PETA too seriously…so let’s just say that let’s hear from PETA officially once more before the start of the 2009 season to hear their take on Michael Vick being given a second chance in America’s most culturally and economically powerful sports league, the National Football League. Dan Shannon, a national spokesmen for the animal rights group, joined XX Sports in San Diego to do just that.
On if PETA has tried to over-capitalize on Michael Vick’s situation when they admit that Vick is just one of many who has, or currently does still engage in such behavior:
“I certainly wouldn’t use the word rejoice, but I mean, look, a silver lining obviously to what was a pretty horrible situation all around is that it really shines a spotlight on the cruel, underground industry of dog fighting. Many people really had no idea what was going on. And we’ve heard from local law enforcement, local humane societies – that reports that lead to arrests and convictions of dog fighters around the country have spiked, they’ve gone way up in the past two years because people are more aware of what to look for and are more aware of what to do if they’re suspecting that it’s taking place. Certainly it’s a bad situation all around, but it has led to an increased awareness of what is a very serious problem.”
On his initial reaction to the Philadelphia Eagles signing Michael Vick:
“You know, I was disappointed . But realistically, we understood that somebody was going to sign him. They hadn’t been one of the teams that they had been chattering about quite so much, so it was a little surprising. But hey, as a football fan, I’ve got to wonder if he really has the skills to compete in the league after being out for that long. We’ll be interested to see how it goes, but I do worry about the message that it sends.
And what is that message:
“The message, I guess, depends on what people take from it. The message I hope people don’t take from it, you know, is that if you’re rich and famous, and a talented football player, you can get away with this sort of thing. And certainly you can look at other guys in the league like Donte Stallworth and Ray Lewis and wonder the same thing on a number of different issues. He served his sentence and his debt to society – and we respect that part of it – but guys, I think if you or I…well certainly me..but I think if most people were convicted of a federal charge and spent 23 months in prison, they would probably have a hard time getting their job back. We certainly don’t think Vick should be blackballed from gainful employment for the rest of his life, but I don’t know, it’s one thing to kind of go out and lay bricks for a living, it’s another thing to be put in a situation where your poster’s going to be on kids’ walls, you’re going to be on the cover of Madden, your jersey’s are going to be sold in malls across the country. I think that puts much more importance on it.”
Shannon was then asked to follow up on his statement that Vick deserved a chance to earn a living, just not doing something so high-profile and glamorous as playing quarterback in the NFL:
“Based on really, the remorse – or lack thereof – that he’s shown. I mean, hasn’t come out and done a lot of public apologies, he hasn’t come out and really sort of shown the public that he’s truly remorseful for what he did. I think there are some questions about whether or not he has, again, earned the right to serve as a role model to millions of young kids out there and be treated with that level of respect. Time will tell. Maybe he’ll prove himself to be worthy of that in time. We certainly aren’t against the idea of second chances here at PETA – certainly people make mistakes, learn from them and grow as a result. But, at this point, personally I don’t think I’ve seen a lot from Vick to show that he’s on that path. But you know, maybe that will be the path that happens.”
On what PETA and Shannon might feel if Vick were to do something like donate the proceeds from jersey sales or what not to some sort of animal organization:
“You know, if he were to come out and say something like that or do something like that, that might be a different story. But we haven’t seen something like that yet and hopefully we will.”
On what exactly they want from Vick, since he seems to at least be saying all the things that PETA wants to hear, as long as doing a number of charitable and public awareness events about the subject at hand:
“Our feeling is – and I’m speculating…I can’t see in to the man’s soul and know what’s going on – but it seems to be more of a cynical PR move to try to repair his public image than it is a genuine, heartfelt wanting to do well for the world. I tell ya, I mean, I had personal meetings with this guy and we discussed doing the same sorts of things that he’s out there doing now, and we didn’t feel that his heart was in it.”
Shannon was then asked to explain when he met Vick:
“This was over a year and a half ago before he went in to Leavenworth.”
On what that meeting and conversation with Vick entailed:
“Like I said, we had conversations about whether he wants to speak out against this sort of thing with PETA – it was sort of an exploratory discussion. We talked to him speaking to children; we talked to him about filling public service announcements. But we didn’t walk away from the conversations feeling it was coming from a genuine place. Now, the problem with that, of course, is that we don’t want to put a spokesperson out there for PETA who doesn’t believe in what they’re saying. And we don’t want to create a situation where he then, I don’t know, makes negative comments further down the road, or God forbid, gets involved in this sort of thing again. I don’t think that’s likely to happen, but…”