In 2007, Atlanta Falcons star quarterback Michael Vick was busted for running a dog-fighting ring in Surry County, Virginia. It was alleged that Vick and his associates organized bouts at the Bad Newz Kennels, bet on the fights — and executed the dogs.
The nation was divided. Dog lovers were appalled to learn that canines had apparently been hanged, drowned, and even electrocuted. Sympathizers argued that Vick and his fellow defendants had grown up in a culture that condoned the blood sport. Like in most debates, there were no easy answers.
Angling for a light sentence, Vick pleaded guilty, swearing that he’d never a) gambled on the bouts, or b) killed any dogs. But during sentencing, he ran into trouble when a drug test turned up traces of marijuana in his blood. He was sentenced to 23 months in prison.
This didn’t sit well with the Falcons, who in 2004 had signed Vick to a 10-year contract worth $160 million. Vick has been suspended by the NFL, and ordered to pay back the Falcons a portion of his earnings. In July 2008, Vick filed for bankruptcy. — Charles Bottomley