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Fans React to Vick's Guilty Plea in Dogfighting Case

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Fans React to Vick's Guilty Plea in Dogfighting Case

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Fans React to Vick's Guilty Plea in Dogfighting Case

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And I'm Melissa Block.

Sports fans in Atlanta are taking stock a day after Falcon's quarterback Michael Vick agreed to plead guilty to federal dogfighting charges. Many fans had reserved judgment on Vick in the dogfighting allegations, waiting to see how the legal proceedings would turn out.

Now, as NPR's Kathy Lohr reports, there seems to be a more somber mood.

KATHY LOHR: There's a mixture of disappointment and relief around the city. The Atlanta Falcons have tried to minimize the impact on the team and the constant talk about Vick. Team owner Arthur Blank was a huge backer of his young quarterback. Now, he's dealing with the fallout of Vick's failure.

Mr. ARTHUR BLANK (Team Owner, Atlanta Falcons): You know, from a personal standpoint, I think he is doing the right thing. And that's been my counsel to him quite some while ago. And publicly, this will also get this behind him as quickly as he can and take responsibility for whatever he did.

LOHR: How the team and the league will punish Vick is unclear. They're waiting until they see the plea agreement next week before deciding what action to take.

Vick and three others were charged in July with two counts of dogfighting. The charges included allegations that the men killed animals that did not perform well by hanging, drowning and slamming at least one dog to the ground. Ever since the indictment, the Atlantans have been split over Vick. Some were angry from the start that their star athlete could be involved in such vicious activity. Some didn't believe it. And others, like Don Frisbee(ph), who works for the Department of Corrections, says he was giving Vick the benefit of the doubt.

Mr. DON FRISBEE (Department of Corrections): I was leaning toward innocent until proven guilty, but if he has pled guilty, then I don't think he ought to ever play football for the NFL again.

LOHR: Vick was not only the Falcons' star player, but the most exciting player in the NFL, the one who could scramble on the field and find a way out of trouble.

On a sports talk radio program in Atlanta known as "2 Live Stews," hosts Doug and Ryan Stewart and their callers have questioned the charges. Now, the Stews are debating how this will play out in the long term.

(Soundbite of radio program "2 Live Stews")

Mr. DOUG STEWART (Host, "2 Live Stews"): The day he gets out of prison, I'd shake his hand and let him come play quarterback for me because this can be a bad year in Atlanta.

Mr. RYAN STEWART (Host, "2 Live Stews"): Well, after they go 2 and 14, who can change their mind?

Unidentified Man: Yeah. But see, he's not going to be able to play for the next couple of seasons. You watch because…

Mr. D. STEWART: I…

Unidentified Man: …his suspension is going to start this year.

Mr. D. STEWART: I would beg, borrow and steal to get that man on that field for me. He's the best thing you got.

Mr. R. STEWART: I'd be willing to forgive him, too, man, I really would.

LOHR: Others may not be so willing to forgive Vick. At Jocks N Jills, an Atlanta sports bar, some said they thought Vick made the best decision under the circumstances, but the disappointment was clear.

Jay Williams(ph) owns his own delivery business. He says wrong is wrong.

MR. JAY WILLIAMS (Businessman): He lied, bottom line, and I felt he's got a bad image. And maybe this would be an example that maybe guys will realize that, hey, you better walk straight and narrow. Otherwise, you're not going to be playing a game that other people would love to play for all the money.

LOHR: James Lane(ph), an engineer who's lived in Atlanta for 25 years, says whether or not Vick is allowed to return to the NFL, it won't be in this town.

Mr. JAMES LANE (Engineer): I don't think that the current ownership group and the management group will tolerate. I don't think the fans in Atlanta will ever embrace him again. I think he's earned that rage with both the fans and the management. But, no, he won't play in Atlanta again.

LOHR: Many fans here say it's sad and difficult to see someone with so much talent take such a big fall.

Kathy Lohr, NPR News, Atlanta.

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