This past week, my team signed a convicted felon and dog killer, Michael Vick. I don’t know what happened to the team over the past several years, but this isn’t the team I admired growing up.
My local sports talk radio (106.7 The Fan, Washington, D.C.) fixated on how people could protest the signing of Michael Vick and be okay with Big Ben remaining on the team after his numerous troubles.
I have an answer to that question. Who said we were okay with it? It was hard to swallow Big Ben being accused (multiple times) of sexual misconduct. The Rooneys stuck by him, and given their reputation within the community, that carried a lot of weight. It gave the impression to the fan base that matters weren’t as black and white as the media reported. Still, my wife and I mailed our Big Ben jerseys with a protest note to the Steeler’s P.R. department. Yeah, we weren’t that okay with it. They’re the Steelers, after all–their standards are higher than other teams.
Last year, Bell was arrested for driving higher than kite and possessing a bag of weed, the day before a preseason game. He also missed the team flight. At the very least, he should never have seen the field the next day. But no, he played.
At that point, it became clear that Steelers standards were in decline.
People make judgment errors. They often have to pay consequences. It doesn’t necessarily mean losing their jobs, but the point has to be made that there are standards. Bell should never have played that preseason game (at a minimum). They’re the Steelers, not the Bengals, who a few years ago nearly had to hold practices at jail because many of their players were on the wrong side of the law.
I know people who made mistakes, sometimes serious mistakes. They paid the price and learned from it.
Michael Vick is a completely different case. His actions aren’t judgment errors, they’re an indication of a character defect. It should be plainly obvious that fighting dogs for entertainment is horrendously wrong. It’s inhuman. I know no one who fights (or has fought) dogs for entertainment. I certainly wouldn’t remain friends with them.
With his signing, the Rooney name has lost its gravitas. Considering this development, I have to reconsider the Big Ben situation, too.
I can’t root for a team that’ll go out of their way to sign Michael Vick. The Steelers used to have high standards. Clearly, they have none now. So, I won’t watch their games, nor wear their gear (hats, t-shirts, sweatshirts, and jackets). Obviously, I won’t buy more gear, either. I haven’t even renewed my subscription to The Steelers Digest, and they don’t even publish that paper.
All of the gear I bought over the years is in two plastic garbage bags in my attic. Once Vick is off of the team, I’ll re-evaluate my decision, but the odds are heavily against the Steelers.