The mere mention of Michael Vick's name is bound to stir debate no matter what the situation. Most recently, it's because the controversial athlete's alma mater, Virginia Tech, has decided to induct the former NFL quarterback into its Sports Hall of Fame.
The decision to include Vick, who served 19 months in federal prison for his illegal dogfighting conviction in 2007, has upset many in the animal rights community, as well as those who have ties to the school.
Since the news broke, Change.org started a petition to stop Vick's induction into the Sports Hall of Fame, which has already garnered tens of thousands of signatures. One supporter who signed the petition wrote, "I don't believe in his redemption. Some crimes are unforgivable [and] the abuse [and] murder of innocent animals is one of those."
The Dean of Virginia Tech's veterinary school, Cyril Clarke, expressed his opposition to the decision. "The recent decision to induct Michael Vick into the VT Sports Hall of Fame has generated a tremendous response from both the veterinary community and those who share our commitment to animal welfare and promoting the humane treatment of animals," he said in a statement. "The Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine was not part of the nomination process nor the decision, which was made by a committee of past athletes. The College unequivocally opposes honoring an individual whose past actions contradict our values and the cornerstone of our mission. Over the course of several days, I have communicated with President [Timothy] Sands and other campus administrators to express our disappointment and opposition to this decision. I continue to be in conversations with the president regarding this issue."
However, some see the decision as a recognition of what Vick has done on the field, rather than what he's done off of it. In a statement released to petMD, PETA President Ingrid Newkirk said: "While Michael Vick can never be forgiven for his involvement in and sponsorship of dogfighting or for his other extreme acts of cruelty to animals, PETA recognizes that Virginia Tech is awarding him solely for his football prowess, not as a character role model."
For now, the school is standing by its decision to induct Vick into the Hall of Fame during the upcoming ceremony, slated for Sept. 22, 2017. In a statement, the school said Vick's induction acknowledges his "tremendous achievements as a student athlete—who some will say was the greatest in the history of the university."
The statement continued, "In considering Mr. Vick’s nomination to our Sports Hall of Fame, the criminal activities in which he engaged, his subsequent conviction, and time he served for his crime were also considered, and it was informed by the remorse he has shown since that conviction, the work he is currently engaged in to advance animal welfare issues, as well as his efforts to help our current student athletes, based on lessons he’s learned in his own life, make positive choices as they begin their adult lives."
Virginia Tech claims that the decision "in no way condones the actions for which he was convicted" and that the university "remains dedicated to the protection of animal health and welfare and embodies great care and compassion for all living animals."
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