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. Such a Lady

    Vick has paid his due to society. I don't see any animal rights activist fighting or posting headlines when A pitbull or other viscious dog kill a human being. Where is the headline about the teacher that broke a students arm that's better news to talk about. Where are the headlines about former felons turning their lives around and becoming the heroes of society?

    September 22, 2010 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      Such a Lady, there is nothing wrong with such things. But how can you say this guy turned his life around – he has shown he is the same person who tortured animals years ago. He still hangs around with those same people and runs away from a shoot out in VA because he knows he would lose it all "again" but he still choices to hangaround that type of people. He NEVER showed remorese for his actions – and if you think reading a index card at a news conference with NO mentioning of his actions just sorry he got caught, sorry he lost millions and sorry he let people down is remorse for his actions well we have disagreeing points. I could careless of this guy – only catch the guy is on my favorite team. And if you can show how he put back to society, let me know. All his community service & actions were mandatory for his probation & crime, not volunteered! Not because he wanted to do good for someone (or an animal). I agree with everyone though the paper must have total idiots on payroll, there are a lot of better stories to post!!!! And the philly pitcher should have had front cover not back cover for his true athletic feats – very poor taste and shows how this country continues to have less and less morals.

      September 22, 2010 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • cosmo

      SUCH A LADY – what dark corner of the world are you living in? He may have paid his dues according to the legal system, but we all know that isn't the only system he is being judged by (that applies to anyone who has been to prison folks - Vick isn't special in that regard). He will always be remembered for his dog abuse/cruelty conviction(s) – he should be – maybe that will keep his head and he will be humbled and not be so ignorant and stupid. He is not above the law, that is a given – society now gets it's turn to keep his horrendous behavior fresh and on their minds.

      September 22, 2010 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Forgiven

      Such a Lady. You are spot on. Cosmo, you should hope that no one in your family ever go to jail. None of us is better than Vick. Sure you haven't tortured animals, perhaps, but you (and I) have done other things in our past that if we wanted to be brutally honest, we could have gone to jail for those things. Ever stole a pen or pushed someone? Those are misdemeanors worhy of jail time. I can give you a thousand illustrations to make the point. Vick is only accountable to the judicial system, not to you, me, or the media. Anyone (like the media) who asserts pseudo-legal obligations on Vick makes himself a god.

      September 23, 2010 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
  2. sheppard

    Too funny! If there wasn't some guilty conscience out there, both vick & those who feel the need to defend his actions, no one would think twice about that headline – perfectly acceptable, absolutely hilarious!

    September 22, 2010 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Will

    People still read "paper" newspapers? What a waste of color ink!

    September 22, 2010 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Jeff

    Kolb is nipping at Vick's heels.

    September 22, 2010 at 3:14 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Go Vick

    congratulations Michael and thank God for Jesus and that he forgives. a sin is a sin no matter how you look at it. his conviction is no worse than you lying or stealing or cheating on your spouse. do not judge lest ye be judged. senseless idiots.

    September 22, 2010 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dee

      Torturing and murdering helpless animals is no worse than cheating?? smh...

      September 22, 2010 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • sheppard

      I do believe that you calling other folks idiots is being judgmental........ hypocrite! LOL

      September 22, 2010 at 6:54 pm | Report abuse |
  6. woofwoof

    someone is always trying to hustle someone else. humane society are more interested in a dog than a black man. do you think they do it solely for the love of animals? it is $$$$, it always is and always will be. The few that care for animals are overrun by few that think in terms of $$$, corporatize it. leave the man alone, if he repents and shows that with works that match it leave him alone (WOOF WOOF)

    September 22, 2010 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
  7. dave

    He did the crime, got caught, and did the time. Stupid headline in poor taste, but that wasn't Vick's fault. Let the man do his job. As an Eagle fan and animal lover, I had mixed feelings about the Eagles picking him up. Now I'm glad he's there. People are going to gripe that he's playing well? LOL.

    September 22, 2010 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • doofus

      awesome headline that's hysterical is more like it

      September 22, 2010 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Stephen

    He went to jail and paid his debt to society. If we are going to treat people who have already been punished like they are still being punished then maybe we should save ourselves the trouble and make every crime punishable by death. What he did to those dogs was disgusting. It makes my skin crawl, but never letting him move on means that we don't get to move on either.

    September 22, 2010 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • dave

      Death to speeders!!!

      September 22, 2010 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jason

      You are the most logical person on this entire site. Thank you.

      September 22, 2010 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Jon

    I'm glad he's playing, and starting again. Good for him. So good to see that those who don't like him can't stop him from doing that anymore. Besides, it was no big deal. They're dogs, not people, just dogs. So What. He paid his debt to society, and moved on. As should he, and everyone esle. That is, everyone else who is interested in getting a life.

    September 22, 2010 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Rich

    There's a murderer playing on the Ravens and no one rehashes that. I hope hope Vick lights it up!

    September 22, 2010 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Paige

    HISSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!

    September 22, 2010 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • dave

      Vick did nothing to snakes. Chill.

      September 22, 2010 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • doofus

      oh, his trouser snake has probably traveled far

      September 22, 2010 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Jeff Ferenc

    Vick served his time in jail for his offense. Let it go. I hppe he has a great year and makes the Pro-Bowl team. The newspaper used poor judgment in dredging up the past with its headline and new very well it would get attention for it. BTW who cares if some stinking rotten pit bulls got killed or mauled from fighting. They're bred to fight and kill anyway. People get more upset over animals than they do about people in big cities who get shot and killed. What a world.

    September 22, 2010 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • cosmo

      JEFF FERENC: You "sir" (I use that term very loosely) are a jacka**. Your comments are ridiculoutsand completely define your ability and show your ignorance. Regardless of your opinions of pit bulls, or any dogs, Vick's actions were inhumane and illegal – NO LIVING CREATURE/BEING deserves the treatment or actions that Vick and his moronic gang were charged with.

      September 22, 2010 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
  13. PHAN

    gonna have to pick one up... and pawn it to pawn stars in a few years

    September 22, 2010 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Goodies

    I totally agree with Kamyhah..PEOPLE PLEASE! Get over it!

    September 22, 2010 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Carlton

    Haters, Haters, Haters...only those who don't have a life, especially a life like a superstar "black" QB, Hate on others!!!

    September 22, 2010 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
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