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. Kim

    Wow – people are AWESOME

    September 22, 2010 at 6:37 pm | Report abuse |
  2. MARY

    Get real Pete Rose got banned from baseball for gamgling. This man killed dogs with his bare hands and let others watch. He's discusting and needs to go find another job like cleaning out dog kennels.

    September 22, 2010 at 6:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • amp77

      Mary, that's a commentary on the sad state of MLB baseball. Gambling is no good, but steroids were perfectly acceptable for so long. Goodell keeps his NFL players on a much shorter leash. And the fact that you can't stand that Vick is a talented football player who can get paid for doing so is your problem, not his. If I can get a job making millions, why on earth would I instead take a job that paid $20 an hour? CAPITALISM. His penalty has been paid, but I can see you'd like to punish him forever. How about we enact the death penalty for all legal infractions, regardless or what they are? That should thrill you!

      September 22, 2010 at 7:36 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Chris

    It's a sad commentary on society to read those posts that obviously place more importance on the impact a person has on a football team than the cruelty and pain he inflicted on a feeling, living creature.

    September 22, 2010 at 6:50 pm | Report abuse |
  4. pitboss

    I certainly hope that an animal loving offensive lineman breaks Vick's knees/back/neck....hopefully he can then spend the rest of his miserable life in a wheel chair watching life pass him by.....

    September 22, 2010 at 7:05 pm | Report abuse |
  5. sa

    they are just dogs, who cares about some dumb mutts..... Get a life people! Go vick

    September 22, 2010 at 7:07 pm | Report abuse |
  6. duk sausage

    dam we get it, ya'll like animals (and some of you weirdos like em more then humans) in America if enough whiners cry loud enough someone will hear it.... shut the hell up already. sounds like a bunch of haters, not my fault he gets paid to play football.. umm he is a football player....at the end of the day money talks and the rest of ya'll still ain't shiite...

    dig dat....

    September 22, 2010 at 7:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • redneck

      so you think its all OK 'cause its "just a dog"...??? well here's a news flash sports fans... in some parts of this great country, persons of non-white ethnic lineage are considered "good sport" for entertainment by hanging them from trees, or maybe dragging them for several miles down a dirt road behgind a motor vehicle....too bad Vick didnt get to meet some of these good ole boys huh??? I would have paid good money to see THAT for sure...

      September 22, 2010 at 7:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      You are a prime example of why I like animals more than most people.

      September 23, 2010 at 11:23 am | Report abuse |
  7. itsoveranddonewith

    what's done is done. was he wrong? yes. did he pay his dues? yes. is he still a great player? yes. was this headline too sensitive? no. I own dogs. I've had pits. I believe what he did was terrible, and can't wait for the sport to not exist, but the paper (all papers are hurting for subscribers!) has done nothing wrong. this got people talking about the paper, may get some subscribers out of it, and that is it. what should really happen is that if you really felt the way that you did, you wouldn't even click on the story to comment, as that means that it is still a popular topic, and will continue to pop up. yo have the choice to read what you want to read, so why add fuel to a fire that shouldn't be fueled? live your life the best way you know how, and stop judging others.

    September 22, 2010 at 7:14 pm | Report abuse |
  8. DAN

    While yes Mr. Vick has "paid" his dues, there is a far cry from stealing and torture. There is a book out that follows the lives of the dogs that were saved, its heart warming and also heartbreaking. I for one can forgive but not forget. He does not get a second chance with me in the NFL (not that I have much say), what he should get a chance at is digging a ditch, or earning his keep by helping the needy.

    Do I think for ONE MINUTE the man has truly changed? NO WAY, he has just learned the game, learned how to walk and talk and look good, sound good and will make sure he covers his tracks. Anyone who thinks otherwise is blind.......

    September 22, 2010 at 7:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • amp77

      So, oh wise one, tell me, what jobs should be offered to anyone who has completed a prison sentence? What jobs should NOT? He's going for the best paying gig that he can get, which is what most of us do at the end of the day. He was about to go into construction before the NFL game him another shot. So no ex-cons should be playing pro sports? What about other high paying jobs like engineering, or perhaps investments...should those be off limits too because they pay too much? He paid his dues and earned his keep. That's the inherent idea behind our penal system, whether it actually works out that way is another discussion. You just can't stand that he makes millions and is on TV after going to prison. That's the bottom line.

      September 22, 2010 at 7:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      Amp77, you keep repeating yourself that we only dislike Vick because he been in prison & is now making money. You obviously aren't reading the comments posted here. You seem to believe you can tell others what they're thinking no matter what they say, and that's insulting. I'm a capitalist as much as the next person, but people dislike Vick because he enjoys torturing & inflicting pain on those more defenseless than himself. That is the mark of a sociopath, no matter what he does for a living or how much he makes.

      September 23, 2010 at 11:29 am | Report abuse |
  9. thayer

    I see so many moronic evil idiots posting messages here. He paid his debt to society huh? Yeah, so? If he were to come to the company I work for he would absolutely not be hired after they did a bakcround check because he is a CONVICTED FELON!!!!! He does NOT HAVE A RIGHT TO WORK IN THE NFL!!!! PHILLY IS JUST THAT CLASSLESS OF A CITY AND THE EAGLES ARE THAT CLASSLESS OF AN ORGANIZTION TO HIRE THIS DIsGUSTING EXCUSE FOR A HUMAN BEING.
    Alos, A lot of the black people saying people are racist are truly the racist ones. You're just too stupid to realize it.

    September 22, 2010 at 7:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • amp77

      Why does he not have a right to work in the NFL? Just because YOUR company won't hire someone with a criminal history doesn't mean another company won't. Until the NFL says they will not hire ex-cons, he has EVERY RIGHT to be there. Lay off the haterade, it's not a good look.

      September 22, 2010 at 7:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • amp77

      And one more thing, just you wait and see who's lining up to sign him next season. I'm confident your team will be right there in the hunt.

      September 22, 2010 at 8:01 pm | Report abuse |
  10. loopy lu

    I'm just glad he's playing again. We have always appreciated watching him, it was horrible for what he's done, but I see it this way, have you ever visited a slaughter house and seen what they do to those animals? Now that's cruelty!

    September 22, 2010 at 7:53 pm | Report abuse |
  11. mvf

    I don't believe for a second he's quit dogfighting.

    September 22, 2010 at 7:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • amp77

      If it ever comes out that he's still doing it, I will be the first to say I was wrong and that he needs to go right the hell back to jail. Until then, I choose to give him the benefit of the doubt, as does the NFL.

      September 22, 2010 at 7:59 pm | Report abuse |
  12. rt

    put him in the ring with pitbulls tortured for fighing. yeah.. now who's sorry mike?

    September 22, 2010 at 7:59 pm | Report abuse |
  13. notafan

    I will believe he is sorry when he is given the same torture the dogs went through. THEN I'll believe he is sorry.

    September 22, 2010 at 8:04 pm | Report abuse |
  14. north.87

    typical thug... yeah he's sorry (that he got caught.)

    September 22, 2010 at 8:07 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Sue

    The headline was tacky. Vick was punished and now deserves an opportunity to put that unfortunate part of his life behind him. He is trying to do just that but there are those who aren't willing to give him that chance. Give the man a break–it is up to God–not you–to judge. And by the way, I am an animal lover but I also believe that people can change and that many of us do things which we later regret.

    September 22, 2010 at 8:25 pm | Report abuse |
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