Falcons Fans Reserved About Vick; Inquiry Continues
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
The owner of the Atlanta Falcons football team, Arthur Blank, says he had no indications that quarterback Michael Vick was in trouble before he was indicted on dog-fighting charges last week.
Mr. ARTHUR BLANK (Owner, Atlanta Falcons): I feel badly that he potentially has put himself in a set of circumstances that are going to be very difficult for him to deal with. As I said earlier, he's not the young man that I've gotten to know in the last six years, so I am disappointed.
MONTAGNE: The Falcons owner says he agrees with the NFL commissioner, who ordered Vick to stay away from training camp. As you might expect, Atlanta is buzzing with talk about the superstar quarterback and his problems.
Here's a report from NPR's Kathy Lohr.
KATHY LOHR: For the past week, local sports talk programs have been filled with speculation about what should happened to Vick. On the "Buck and Kincade Show," Buck Belue talked about reaction from Vick's supporters after he said repeatedly that the quarterback should go.
Mr. BUCK BELUE (Co-host, "Buck and Kincade Show"): And a lot of people hot that I was speaking about the Atlanta community and how they felt about the Mike Vick thing.
Unidentified Man: Really?
Mr. BELUE: Totally.
Unidentified Man: You're not allowed to speak?
Mr. BELUE: Because I was saying 75 percent of the people out there are against Mike Vick in this situation right now.
LOHR: Just down the AM dial a bit, they've been talking about Vick on "2 Live Stews," a show that features Stewart brothers Doug and Ryan. They say that Vick is innocent until proven guilty.
Mr. DOUG STEWART (Co-host, "2 Live Stews"): I mean, it just doesn't add up.
Mr. RYAN STEWART (Co-host, "2 Live Stews"): No. I mean, just the math just doesn't work.
Mr. D. STEWART: Fifty million liquid…
Mr. R. STEWART: Mm-hmm…
Mr. D. STEWART: …running up and down the coast, you know, on 95 back and forth from Atlanta to Virginia.
Mr. R. STEWART: In a pickup truck with dogs in the back.
Mr. D. STEWART: Right. Not only to that, you're going back up and forth the coast to kill dogs.
Mr. R. STEWART: Right.
Mr. D. STEWART: I find it hard to believe, man.
LOHR: Vick has said he was not involved in the dog fighting that allegedly took place on his property in Virginia. Fans seem split over whether they believe him. In the center of Atlanta at the ESPN Zone, a sports bar, Nikita Swain(ph) says too many people have already convicted Vick.
Ms. NIKITA SWAIN: You know, if he is guilty, he should be punished as well. You know, no one should get away with being cruel to animals. It's kind of - it's a little early to be - you know, everyone is persecuting him a little early before all of the facts are completely out on the table, and that's unfair.
LOHR: The defensive coach for a historically black college in Atlanta, Jeff Masses(ph), says the NFL is making an example out of Vick but not because he's black.
Mr. JEFF MASSES: I don't think it's a racial issue. I just think it's a superstar issue. He's a celebrity, there's something on him, and let's take it around with it. And because he's a rich, superstar athlete, it's blown up a whole lot more than if he were just a regular person.
LOHR: Others are less forgiving. John Whitley(ph) says no player should be involved in this kind of scandal.
Mr. JOHN WHITLEY: It's just barbaric for grown men to be watching dogs fight and kill each other for sport just so that they can make a couple of hundred dollars. It's horrific.
LOHR: Tomorrow, when training camp begins, Vick will be in Virginia answering the federal charges against him. For Falcons' fans, it's just sinking in that the team will have to find a way to go on without their superstar who vaulted the Falcons into the national spotlight with his ability to run and get out of so many tight spots.
Kathy Lohr, NPR News, Atlanta.