BLACKSBURG, Va. – He's been called the greatest Virginia Tech athlete in school history. But he's also served time for his role in a dog-fighting ring.
Michael Vick is set to be inducted into the Hall of Fame this September, and the controversy around the nominating committee's choice is swelling.
In early July, Virginia Tech announced that former quarterback and standout athlete Vick will be inducted.
"Yes, his athletics were wonderful but I don't think we should place athletics over character and reputation and citizenship," said Browning Frazier, a concerned citizen.
Vick's athletic accomplishments were overshadowed in 2007 when we was convicted for his role in a dog-fighting ring. Now the university is facing backlash for its decision to honor him. Frazier is a fourth generation Hokie fan, her father served as the team manager, and her family has held season tickets since the 1950s. She also happens to be an animal welfare advocate. The decision has her concerned.
"I felt like the criteria as it's written (says) that the person shall not have brought any embarrassment to the university and should have good character. I felt that his behavior did not meet that criteria," said Frazier.
It's a sentiment shared by thousands, and two online petitions to keep Vick out of the Hall of Fame have garnered more than 80,000 signatures. But some are worried that the numbers won't be enough to sway a loyal fan base.
"Michael Vick is their hero and you're not going to sway them at all unless you took them to see a dog fight," said Nancy Julian.
Virginia Tech has released a statement about the induction saying:
Mr. Vick’s induction into the university’s sports Hall of Fame acknowledges his tremendous achievements as a student athlete—who some will say was the greatest in the history of the university. We understand that there are those who do not and will never agree with this decision.
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.
This in no way condones the actions for which he was convicted. The university remains dedicated to the protection of animal health and welfare and embodies great care and compassion for all living animals.
The Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine has also released a statement opposing the decision, saying:
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. 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 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.
The College of Veterinary Medicine will continue to stand behind our mission and advocate for an alternative outcome. Our mission has not changed and we will continue to work tirelessly to advance programs that promote the welfare of animals and be a strong voice that reflects our unified commitment to compassionate care and our dedication and respect for the animal lives that benefit from the education and care we deliver.