Ben Watson says it’s time to forgive Michael Vick for his involvement in dogfighting.
In a tweet Saturday night, the Patriots tight end responded to a petition calling on the NFL to reverse its decision to honor Vick at the upcoming Pro Bowl, arguing that the former Atlanta Falcons star has “paid his debt.”
“The names on this petition are unaware or more likely unconcerned with justice and truth,” Watson wrote.
Michael Vick has paid his debt.
17 months in Leavenworth.
Over a decade ago.
The names on this petition are unaware or more likely unconcerned with justice and truth. https://t.co/wo0alQLirm
— Benjamin Watson (@BenjaminSWatson) December 8, 2019
Vick, a four-time Pro Bowl quarterback and 2010 comeback player of the year, is set to receive another award from the NFL. The league announced last month that the retired 39-year-old would be among four honorary captains at the Pro Bowl in January, mentoring the game’s participants and appearing throughout the week of festivities in Orlando.
As both a passing and running threat, Vick was one of the game’s most dynamic players during his six seasons with the Falcons. However, he was suspended from the NFL in 2007 after he was charged and found guilty of running a brutal dogfighting ring. Vick spent served 19 months in federal prison and missed two seasons, before returning to the NFL in 2009 and playing another seven seasons. He has apologized for the dogfighting and become an advocate for the humane treatment of animals.
Still, more than a decade after his release from prison, the honorary award next month is too much for some. As the Washington Post reported Monday, there are three major online petitions that have together garnered more than 700,000 signatures urging the NFL to remove Vick as an honorary captain. One of the petitions also urges supporters to pressure Pro Bowl sponsors to back out unless the NFL changes its position.
“The NFL, Disney, ESPN, the city of Orlando, and Camping World Stadium should not be condoning the torture and murder of dogs by allowing Michael Vick to be involved in the Pro Bowl – or any other professional sport,” its author, Brande Wood, wrote.
Still, Watson isn’t the only one speaking out in support of Vick. In a tweet Sunday night, retired kicker David Akers called the petitions “sad” and said his former Philadelphia Eagles teammate had “paid for all he has done and more.” NBC football columnist Peter King wrote Monday that Vick was a “great example of reforming oneself from something stupid and hurtful” and said the NFL shouldn’t replace him.
“I’m a dog-lover of the first degree, and I’m 100 percent behind Vick,” King wrote.