Petitions protest Vick’s HOF induction


Marty Gordon

Photo courtesy of Rachel Beasley
Rachel Beasley (left) is pictured with Layla, a pit bull she rescued eight years ago. She is the organizer of a petition drive against Michael Vick’s inductee into the Virginia Tech Sports Hall of Fame.

Two petitions are being circulated condemning Michael Vick’s induction into the Virginia Tech Sports Hall of Fame.

Over 60,000 individuals have signed the petitions since they began circulating two weeks ago. Rachel Beasley, who attended Virginia Tech in the early 2000s and has rescued several pit bulls over the past eight years, organized one of the petitions.

“Prior to and during my time at Virginia Tech, I was a Michael Vick supporter who defended him as someone who had come from a terrible situation and really made something of himself. Since the news of his dog fighting ring, I have followed the case and the dogs very closely. I was disappointed when I attended the Battle at Bristol last fall and Michael Vick was there. When I found out they were including him in the hall of fame, it was to say the least a huge disappointment,” she said.

Vick finished third in the 1999 Heisman Trophy voting – the top finish ever by a Tech player – and went on to become the No. 1 overall pick in the 2001 NFL Draft.

The five new honorees will be inducted during a Hall of Fame dinner on the Tech campus Friday, Sept. 22, the evening before Tech’s home football game against Old Dominion and will be introduced to fans at halftime of the football game. The new class will bring the total number enshrined to 192.

Vick started 10 games in 1999, missing two games with an injury, completing 90 of 153 (58.8) for 1,840 yards and 12 touchdowns. He also rushed for 617 yards and eight scores. He finished third in the Heisman Trophy balloting – the top finish ever by a Tech player – and he won an ESPY from ESPN as the nation’s top college football player.

As a redshirt sophomore, Vick started nine games, missing two games with an injury. He completed 87 of 161 for 1,234 yards and eight touchdowns. He also ran for 617 yards and eight touchdowns, and he closed his career by leading the Hokies to a Gator Bowl win over Clemson. Against the Tigers, he completed 10 of 18 for 205 yards and a score, and he rushed for 19 yards and a touchdown in Tech’s 41-20 victory.

After the 2000 season, Vick decided to forgo his final two years of collegiate eligibility and declared for the NFL Draft. He still holds school records for highest yards-per-completion average for a season (20.4 in 1999) and highest yards-per-attempt average for a season (12.0 in 1999). He also holds the record for highest yards-per-attempt average for a career (9.79 in 1999-2000).

Vick was the No. 1 overall pick by the Atlanta Falcons in the 2001 NFL Draft. He played 13 seasons in the NFL for four different teams, throwing for 22,464 yards, with 133 touchdowns and 88 interceptions during his career. He holds two NFL records – rushing yards by a quarterback in a season (1,039) and a career (6,109).

Prior to a game against LSU early in the 2002 season, the Virginia Tech Athletics Department retired Vick’s No. 7 jersey. He is one of nine former Virginia Tech football players to receive such an honor.

In February, Vick retired from the NFL, and has been involved with the launching of the American Flag Football League in which world-class athletes join teams to play flag football in a league that founders hope to launch full time in 2018.

But despite all his athletic accomplishments, it is his involvement off the field in dog fighting that has gotten Vick more attention than he expected. In 2007, he pleaded guilty to involvement in a dog-fighting ring that included the deaths of pit bulls on Tidewater property where animals were trained in dog fighting. Several animals were rescued from poor conditions on the property listed as “Bad Newz Kennels.”

After serving his sentence, Vick signed with the Eagles in 2009 but then officially retired from football earlier this year.

“Athletes are supposed to be not only good athletes but also of good character and it is disheartening to know the athletic ability is all the school cares about. I expected someone to start a petition but when I wasn’t able to find one, I decided to start one myself,” Beasley said.

She has not been able to forgive Vick for his involvement in dog fighting.

“Obviously, dog fighting is a heinous act and something I am very strongly against, but in addition to that Michael Vick and his cohorts chose to torture the dogs that underperformed.  He was a wealthy man, but instead of ending their lives quickly with a bullet he chose to kill them by drowning, electrocution, beating, etc.  These are facts of the case.  Anyone who can do those things to a living creature has serious issues.”

A response from Pete Moris, Virginia Tech’s associate athletic director of athletics communications, said the sports hall of fame committee was aware that not all members the community would embrace their decision to include Michael Vick in this year’s hall of fame class. However, according to Moris, the criteria for induction into the sports hall of fame is based on the individual’s contributions during their time at the university.

“The committee maintains that Michael Vick’s impact as a student goes without question,” Moris concluded.

In a letter to Tech President Sands, Beasley urged the university to repeal the decision.

“He does not meet all the criteria set forth for the Hall of Fame,” she said. “Michael Vick was an outstanding football player, but his character is far from outstanding. The disappointment I feel for my beloved university is crushing. Virginia Tech is a much respected, upstanding school that has persevered after horrible tragedies. The recipients of this outstanding honor should be role models, not felons.”

That criteria she is talking about states inductees: “must be of good character and reputation/not been a source of embarrassment to the university in any way.”

Beasley has two “pit bulls” and has fostered many others.

“Both of my girls came from bad situations. My oldest, Layla, was dumped on the highway in my rural county severely emaciated and terrified nine years ago, and I thankfully spotted her on my way home from work.”

Jennifer Breeden, who organized the second petition, said Vick simply should not be honored.

“I am a Hokie and am embarrassed to have my school want to induct him into the HOF. I agree he is a tremendous athlete and brought much attention to VT, but he also brought a lot of shame with that,” she said.

Breeden said Vick will always be associated with dog fighting and sadly always be associated to Virginia Tech.

An official statement from the university called the 18 months he spent in prison, as timed served for his crime.

“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 current student athletes, based on lessons he’s learned in his own life, make positive choices as they begin their adult lives.”

A protest for the Virginia Tech HOF induction is being planned for September, when Vick will officially be recognized.