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. Danny

    I am glad that Vick is starting!! What a bunch of WHINERS and Cry Babies in here, quit griping and move on. Michael Vick has and will continue to make $millions of dollars in the NFL while you still talk about his past.He did his time. Get a life folks!

    September 22, 2010 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
  2. SouthAustin

    Nothing wrong with the headline. And nothing wrong with the anti-Vick signs etc at the games because Vick is a public figure. Getting Vick was a brilliant move by the Eagles. It's all about "buying low" and "selling high". They picked up Vick for peanuts when his reputation was at it's lowest point and are now reaping the rewards of that decision. I don't know why people are upset that Vick is playing – he has a talent that is in great demand – but when you look at what he earns vs what his talent level is, it's obvious that he's still paying a huge penalty for having been convicted. Generally speaking, society is much better off when ex-cons turn their lives around and become productive members of society, so you would think that people would be happy that Vick is headed in the right direction.

    September 22, 2010 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Big Game James

    Hey all you 'animal-lovers' out there. All your dogs and cats want you to leave them alone. Stop slobbering all over them with your baby kisses. Stop dressing them up in Petsmart's latest fashions. God gave us clothes...IT'S CALLED FUR!! Get out of the house on Friday night, Saturday and Sunday and go play with your HUMAN friends. They love you too, but its starting to get freaky. They are just cats and dogs. They are not your boyfriends or girlfriends. They are also not your 'kids'. And you will never have any real kids if you don't put down the retractable leash and environmentally safe poop bag. Jeez, I like dogs but they are just animals. I see that compassion and love that animal lovers brag about doesn't apply to all animals. Especially not the human one! Keep scrambling Vick! You still got love in the Dirty!!

    September 22, 2010 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
  4. a lausen

    Rick Sanchez
    On the statement about Mike Vick doing his time and paying his debt. I agree with you but, It is not the American way. Many people have paid there debt and are still being punished years after their crime. Sorry they can't throw a ball or run very fast but yet they have skills that move this country.Yet they still can't get a job because of a misdemeanor.

    September 22, 2010 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Fish

    I am an animal lover. What Vick did was wrong, but "He who is without sin cast the first stone." He paid his debt, did his time, and continues to try and teach kids what he did was wrong. Let him be. He's a professional football player. Let him do his job.

    September 22, 2010 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  6. doofus

    "Top Dog" ~ That's EPIC. Real NICE headline LOL

    September 22, 2010 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dee

      your name says it all.

      September 23, 2010 at 10:03 am | Report abuse |
  7. Mark

    For all you folks who think this is political – ie the comments about President Obama, the reason his race and religion keep getting talked about is simple – because Baggers draw most of their support from very angry stupid people. As to Vick – it is simple, the man has every right to play football because he served his time and there is no impediment to his working. That said, as long as he is on the team I will not attend any game or buy any product that might generate revenue to the Eagles organization, because what he did is morally bankrupt and evil. Before the law he has the right to work and I support that, but I don't have to participate or make profits for him or his team.

    September 22, 2010 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Frank

    Vick served his time and paid. All of the outcries are haters and racists. Go find somebody else to pick on, Maybe Odonnel and her witchcraft.

    September 22, 2010 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Linda

      You are an idiot. Please stop crying racism because I don't want to support a man who attached jumper cables to a dogs ears and threw those dogs in a pool of blood, and watched while they desperately tried to scratch their way out as they were eletrocuted. It is not racism because I don't like someone who picked up a dog up and smashed its body to the floor until it was lifeless. It is not racism because I don't liek someone who had his dog's teeth removed so she could be put on a r*pe rack, after that dog was to terrified to be around other dogs. Nor is it racism to not like someone who took puppies and made them so scared of humans and dogs that they would push their heads into walls until they scarred themselves or were afraid to walk on all fours. I don't care what color you are, I would HATE you if you did this and Vick has not shown any remorse. All of his "remorse" was a PR campaign to get him back into the NFL, which promptly stopped the minute he got back in and started throwing parties for himself. If you don't get that, you are just DUMB.

      September 22, 2010 at 5:47 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Hollander

    Sure he paid his debt, but people who are cruel to animals don't get better with a little jail time. Just like pedophiles don't get better with jail time. Anyone who gets off killing animals, and watching animals kill each other, has serious issues that a little jail time won't heal. People like this are skillful psychopaths, good at fooling others. I would not trust him around my family, let alone my pets.

    September 22, 2010 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Antwonnn

      I kill animals and eat them. Does that mean I'm going to be a cannibal in 10 years? Look out Virginia, I'm a budding sociopath!

      September 22, 2010 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • deeb

      The NFL is a business. The primary goal is to win and make money. Take your emotions out of it. Reid is obligated to coach that team to wins and profit or he's out of a job. Profit, Capitalism, Profit, Capitalism.

      September 22, 2010 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
  10. E

    Eagles suck!

    September 22, 2010 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • K

      lakers suck

      September 22, 2010 at 6:29 pm | Report abuse |
  11. deeb

    Pleaseee. Philly did this tom themselves. They told Donovan McNabb to kick rocks in favor of an "hopefully" replacement for their future. And with that horrible offensive line, they gambled. Suck it up. NFL is a business primary goal is to win and make money. Take your emotions out of it. Reid is obligated to coach that team to wins and profit.

    September 22, 2010 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
  12. mark

    so we all live in glass houses huh? give me a break some of you so call animal lovers are a joke, its an animal for god's sake, not condoning vick's action but you folks act like the man was a mass murder or a rapist, he did his time, and yes he his doing what he is suppose to be doing, some of you would love to see this man down on his luck begging like most of you imbeciles in here get a life, hell rapist and murders get out of jail and dont get much scrutiny like vick, and yes i am not an animal lover they belong outside like all animals

    September 22, 2010 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • cosmo

      Really MARK – you're friends with a lot of rapists, pedophiles, and murderers? how the he** do you know what they go through when they get out of prison? Society can treat Vick as he deserves to be – which is an animal. I would gladly let my dogs lift their leg on his.

      September 22, 2010 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Bill

    These headlines are just a a couple of more reasons why American newspapers are having circulation problems. Its who,what,when, where and why? Not smart headlines and personal wisecracks. But of course I am preaching to the choir as the arrogant press don't even see their demise around the corner.

    September 22, 2010 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Big Game James

    How did Obama get in this? Oh yeah, another black man was appointed to a position of power and the insecurities, inadequacies come out. Let it go. Stop trying to make him a rapist and pedophile . He's not. If he had done it to two dogs he would have got a ticket and fine. I hope the Eagles win the Super Bowl. That way there will be a picture of Obama and Vick shaking hands. Things will really "shrivel" up then. HAHAHA!!

    September 22, 2010 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Logan

    Philly fans are such trash! No surprise they'd support a piece of sh** like Vick!

    September 22, 2010 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
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