Last night, I was on MSNBC’s Live with Dan Abrams’ show to discuss the Michael Vick case. Yesterday, one of Vick’s co-defendants pled guilty and agreed to cooperate with the federal government—a development that some legal analysts have called "devastating" for Vick. Also, yesterday, the Atlanta chapter of the NAACP held a press conference earlier in the day defending Michael Vick, expressing a concern about a rush to judgment in the case and criticizing the NFL and Nike and other companies for taking action against Vick before the legal process is completed.
On the Abrams show, it was a debate between me and the head of the local NAACP chapter. That’s not a circumstance I relished, since the last thing I want is for the issue of dogfighting to be polarized around the issue of race.
I have said many times that Michael Vick and his co-defendants deserve a fair trial, and on that point, there is no quarrel between The HSUS and the NAACP, a proud and important organization in our nation also with a mission of defending the vulnerable. But there is no doubt that Michael Vick’s property was used for dogfighting, and that fact alone grounds HSUS’s concerns and public criticisms. In addition, the 19-page indictment against Vick is explosive, and just cannot be ignored. We do not want to see one of the highest-profile athletes in American sports go on with business as usual with these very serious charges looming.
Since its founding in 1954, The HSUS has worked on eradicating dogfighting, cockfighting and other forms of staged animal fights wherever they have occurred and no matter who has participated in these grisly types of premeditated cruelty. Today, dogfighting is a crime in every jurisdiction in the nation, and we demand that anti-cruelty laws be vigorously enforced.
The Michael Vick case has become high-profile because he is a star athlete, because his property was used for dogfighting, and because of the gruesome details contained in a 19-page indictment, not because he is African American. The Humane Society of the United States pursues animal cruelty cases with an entirely color-blind attitude, and that will always be our approach.