September 22nd, 2010
12:47 PM ET

Newspaper tackles Vick story with 'Top Dog' headline

The Philadelphia Daily News went with a tongue-in-cheek headline Wednesday.

Michael Vick is sure to be the subject of controversy again, but this time it's not the fleet-footed Eagles quarterback's fault.

On the front cover of Wednesday's Philadelphia Daily News, Vick is featured - rolling out of the pocket, pigskin in hand - alongside the caption, "Top Dog." The story details a "shocking turnabout" in which Eagles coach Andy Reid named Vick the team's starting quarterback.

In case you've been in a sports vacuum on one of Neptune's moons for the last two years, Vick returned to the gridiron last season after serving an NFL suspension and prison time for a felony dogfighting conviction.

The Eagles' decision to sign Vick to a modest contract was met with mixed reaction from animal-rights activists, and this week's announcement was no different. The founder of the animal-welfare organization DogPAC told The Philadelphia Inquirer the move was "disappointing," However, Wayne Pacell, president of the Humane Society of the United States, said Vick was committed to his group's anti-dogfighting initiative and that Vick told him he'd be available Tuesdays to talk to at-risk youth about dogfighting.

A People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals news release said only, "As long as he's throwing a football and not electrocuting a dog, PETA is pleased he is focused on his game."

Josh Barnett, the paper's executive sports editor, said the Daily News had received "a few calls and some e-mails" about the headline, "almost all being from people who are animal lovers."

"The general consensus is they feel like the issue's been covered and he's paid his debt to society with prison time, and the story should be more focused on football," he said.

Barnett defended the paper's coverage of the issue, saying it was balanced and that several sources addressed Vick's remarkable comeback and how the 30-year-old had made the most of his second chance.

As for the headline, Barnett said it is "reflective of our personality." He said there was no intention to offend anyone, only to "write the best, most reflective headline out there."

"It really is not a stark departure from what we do and what we've always done," Barnett said.

August 2009 cover after Vick's signing.

This, after all, is a newspaper that warned "Hide Your Dogs" on its front page when the Eagles signed Vick. When the Eagles banned outside food in their new stadium the paper decried "Hoagies of Mass Destruction." It has also skewered non-sports figures: When in 2000 then-Mayor John Street announced his support for Police Chief John Timoney following a nationally televised police beating, the Daily News depicted the pair as Jackie Gleason and Art Carney under the headline, "The Honeymooners."

Several blogs promised Wednesday's Vick cover would yield controversy. But Philadelphia is a rabid sports town, a place where Santa Claus was once pelted with snowballs, where fans cheered after Dallas Cowboy Michael Irvin suffered a career-ending neck injury, where hometown hoopster Kobe Bryant was booed during the just-for-show NBA All-Star Game. Here, the controversy seemed to lie in Reid's decision more than the newspaper's front page.

Reid has repeatedly said - as recently as Monday - that Kevin Kolb would remain the Eagles' starting quarterback and there was "no indication there was any wiggle room in that," said Barnett, explaining why the story carries such weight in the City of Brotherly Love. The Vick announcement, essentially, "is uncharacteristic of Andy Reid," he said.

While most of those commenting on the newspaper's website attacked Reid's credibility and a handful defended "Con-Vick," there were a few commenters who took issue with the paper's headline, describing it as tasteless and tacky.

Asked one: "does anyone know where the editor of the [Daily News], Andy Reid, and Vick the "dog Killer" live? We can get a pumpkin tosser and toss bags of meadow muffins at their houses!"

"Top Dog?" asked another. "You have reached a new low. How about animals protect their young, he's nothing more than a savage, you insult dogs everywhere."

Some took a lighter approach, though, and went along with the gag. A blog post on SB Nation added a few puns of its own, including jokes about how Vick treats "underdogs" and about an upcoming game turning into a "dogfight."

"Sure, a wide swath of America can't talk about Vick without making a dog joke," Andrew Sharp blogged. "But guess what? Two years after one of the more startling falls from grace we've seen in pro sports, we're all talking about Vick again. All jokes aside, that's pretty amazing."

Daily News Assistant Managing Editor Michelle Bjork said "Top Dog" was a "true Daily News headline." Bjork said the newspaper had many talented headline writers and she was not surprised by Wednesday's front page.

Asked if the newspaper - whose parent company filed for bankruptcy last year - was attempting to draw attention ahead of the Daily News, The Philadelphia Inquirer and philly.com being placed on the auction block Thursday, Bjork said the headline was purely an editorial decision.

"This is the sort of thing we would cover anyway because we're such a big sports town," she said.

Indeed, the back cover for Wednesday's paper bore the headline "Roy Wonder!," lauding Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay's 20th win Tuesday night. He is the first Philly pitcher to achieve 20 wins since Steve Carlton in 1982.

Asked which he thought was a bigger story, Barnett said "sports is so much a part of Philadelphia" that both stories were enormous because Vick and Halladay are "major entities on the sports landscape." Vick edged out Halladay out because the announcement was such a surprise and because Vick has a history of being big news - and not just in Philly.

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Filed under: Dogs • Football • Pennsylvania • Sports
soundoff (311 Responses)
  1. Lewy

    How worthless do you have to be to kill a dog?

    September 22, 2010 at 8:31 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Candid One

    All of this hullabaloo about a grand old sports tradition, in the US and globally, the cheapshot. Since when does being indignant bestow dignity? This country has little concept of leaving bad enough alone.

    September 22, 2010 at 11:36 pm | Report abuse |
  3. lapz06

    For everyone that thinks he did his time:You can't do enough time,for what he's done,they pretty much awarded him for electricuting dogs in water,fighting them,hanging them by their testicles for enjoyment.Alot different when your watching it right before your eyes.That's a sick person,you put him in a hospital for real theapy,NOT HAND HIM A FOOTBALL???? It takes a certain mentality to be able to do this,and they put him back in the nfl to make millions and put such digusting headlines up as if they are praising him,your sending the message out there,and wonder why this world is falling apart,you pay these overrated atlete"kids" way too much money and you've ruined the sport,same with that *** LeBron James,they're ruining everything! It's appalling.

    September 22, 2010 at 11:46 pm | Report abuse |
  4. hipponitus

    to bad he wasnt the football player that shot him self instead of Mckinnley

    September 23, 2010 at 6:25 am | Report abuse |
  5. Big Game James

    @hipponitus That's just wrong. That was somebody's child you are talking about. And they call Vick a monster.

    September 23, 2010 at 7:19 am | Report abuse |
  6. Leslie

    As an animal lover, I choose to be optimistic about this ill-conceived decision...now there are more chances for him to get his neck broken. Come on all you guys on defense...we could rid the world of this worthless bum and it would not be considered murder! Go for it...we'll all be watching and hoping.

    September 23, 2010 at 8:45 am | Report abuse |
  7. Boka

    Women get beat up by athletes all the time. And these athletes are not treated no where near the way Vick is being treated. Both by the public and the media. The only conclusion one can have is:

    WOMEN ARE LESS IMPORTANT THAN DOGS.

    September 23, 2010 at 9:06 am | Report abuse |
  8. Mark

    It's Philly, deal with it. But to say nobody picks on Obama, huh? Anybody hear of Fox News. The guy can't spit properly without someone whining. Same here. Vick paid for his crimes, now he's dealing with the outcome. What about "Big Ben" and the women? Let the person that never made an error in judgement cast the first pen.

    September 23, 2010 at 9:21 am | Report abuse |
  9. Cristina

    Amen Leslie! This man should go into society and try to get a job like the thousands of good citizens of this country who for reasons beyond their control find themselves jobless. From the first time he took a dog and mercilessly tortured and killed it, he lost every right to be a man children look up to. As a black woman I can tell you that it is difficult enough raising a young black man in today's society. Having a man such as Vick as a example for our kids to look up to is a defeat to all of us. Open your eyes and don't confuse the real truth here.

    September 23, 2010 at 9:23 am | Report abuse |
  10. Terry

    The story Ali did on Michael Vicks dogs was a waste of time and a shameless plug for a book. What the heck does this have to do with anything going on today. You really think we care about Vick and his dogs? NO WE DON'T. Give it a break! Looks like the dogs were doing better than Vick. And Ali's attempt to re-dramatize the whole incident was obvious when he said " well surely some of the dogs were deemed fighters" ! LOL....NO SH!T. He went to PRISON for dog fighting! The whole piece was poorly produced, and more poorly reported! Just because Vick is playing football again doesn’t mean we want to relive the whole drama again. If that’s the best information CNN has to report on Vick ….PLEASE LET IT GO.

    September 24, 2010 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Lynne Miller

    It is really none of my business whether or not Michael Vick plays football, where he is placed or how much money he makes. He is qualified to do what he does and does it well. He owes me nothing.

    What should be of concern to him as a human being is that he has yet to express heart-felt remorse publicly for all of the pain, suffering and death that he caused those innocent animals. The rehabilitation of the 47 (?) dogs did not happen because of Vick's concern or input. Vick did serve time and he is working with the humane society in some capacity. That is as it should be but all sounds rather mechanical. In his public appearances he has expressed regret that he let his fans down, which is not exactly remorse for hurting the dogs. It appears to me that if he cares it is that he cares that this whole incident cost him many fans and had the potential to ruin his baseball career, not that these acts hurt animals.

    Animal cruelty is an act of sadism and very often a forerunner to other types of abuse. From the standpoint of sadism alone his acts and true remorse should be taken seriously by someone. I hope he has made an attempt to financially reimburse the people who rehabilitated his animals. A good test of his sincerity would be to see him want to adopt one of the animals or any abused animal and really learn what it's like to love an animal. To see how hard these animals have to work to trust again.

    He's not letting this in like he should for his own redemption. I will continue to pray for him. He may be doing the best he can.

    September 27, 2010 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lynne Miller

      Just realized I said baseball career instead o football. Oh well.

      September 27, 2010 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Copy Paste Traffic Review

    Extraordinary blog post! Will you followup on this matter?

    January 5, 2011 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
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