Former NFL quarterback Michael Vick, who served a prison term for operating a dogfighting ring, will still head to the 2020 Pro Bowl in Florida as one of four Legends captains despite a petition signed by hundreds of thousands to remove him.
A Change.org petition to remove Vick noted his past conviction and sentence for dogfighting.
“When is the NFL going to take any responsibility for the behavior of it’s current and former players? To honor a man who had zero regard for animals is unacceptable,” the Change.org petition said. More than 560,000 people signed the initiative.
In response to the petition, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told reporters that Vick is sticking around for the Pro Bowl.
“Over the last, what is it, nine years or so, we have supported Michael in his, what I think his recognition of the mistake he made,” Goodell said.
“He’s paid a heavy price for that. He’s been accountable for it. He’s worked aggressively with the Humane Society and other institutions to deal with animal rights and to make sure people don’t make the same mistake he made, and I admire that,” Goodell said, noting the 18-month sentence Vick served in prison for operating the ring, known as the “Bad Newz Kennels.”
Vick was also suspended by the NFL, and he later filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
After he was released from prison, Vick would go on to play for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2009 before playing for the New York Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers. He officially retired from professional football in 2017 and later joined Fox Sports.
Goodell noted that Vick knows there are people that won’t forgive him.
“I know that there are people out there that will never forgive him. He knows that. But I think this is a young man that has really taken his life in a positive direction and we support that. So I don’t anticipate any change,” Goodell said.
Ann Chynoweth, then Senior Director of the HSUS Animal Cruelty and Fighting Campaign, told People magazine that Vick “paid his price for his crime,” reported People magazine.
“We don’t know what is in his heart and his mind, but we wanted to give him the chance to do something good and show he’s heading in the right direction, working against animal cruelty and dog fighting, specifically,” she said. “This was a serious crime he was convicted of, so we’re taking this one day at a time. If there’s any work he can do to stop dog fighting, we’re all for it.”
The Pro Bowl is slated for Jan. 26 at Camping World Stadium in Orlando.
Other captains selected for the Pro Bowl are former players Darrell Green, Terrell Davis, and Bruce Smith.