When Fox Sports hired Michael Vick as a NFL analyst last month, many wondered why they would bring in someone so infamous. Many are still upset about Vick’s role in running a dogfighting ring, which led to him spending 18 months in prison, and despite Vick’s return to the NFL after that and subsequent efforts on behalf of animal-welfare organizations, there still are lots of people who aren’t thrilled he’s received a prominent job. And Vick himself is aware of that; as Ed Sherman writes in a NFL.com piece, Vick had some doubts he’d receive a broadcasting opportunity:
However, there are plenty of former players who can fill roles as analysts when it comes to TV. Given his history, and the networks’ usual penchant to avoid polarizing figures, Vick had some realistic doubts about whether anyone would hire him to talk about football.
“Honestly, I did,” Vick said. “But I just felt at some point there would be an opportunity. I didn’t know with who.”
“I always felt God would send that person who says, ‘Hey, what do you think about this?'” Vick said. “I just felt that in my heart. I’m thankful the people at FOX believe in me.”
Sherman also writes that Vick got on the radar at Fox, where he currently appears on Fox NFL Kickoff and on some of the weekday studio shows, thanks to some help from current First Things First co-host Cris Carter:
Cris Carter actually started Vick on his “latest chapter.” Earlier this year, Carter called and asked Vick if he wanted to appear on his new FOX Sports 1 show, First Things First. Vick always enjoys talking about football. He figured he would be a natural on TV.
“I told Cris, ‘I’ll be ready for you,'” Vick said. “Cris said, ‘You won’t be ready, but I’ll get you ready.’ I started to think, maybe there’s more to this than what you see.”
Indeed, Vick, out of his element, initially felt nervous when he did an audition for FOX NFL Kickoff. Once the lights went on and working with new TV teammate Tony Gonzalez, he relaxed and passed the test.
Vick has had some not-so-stellar moments so far, including suggesting that Colin Kaepernick would be signed if he got a haircut, but Fox appears to believe in him, and to not be too worried about the criticism. Over 80,000 people have now signed a change.org petition from an animal-rights group calling for Fox to part ways with Vick, but Fox Sports president Eric Shanks said late last month they stand by the hire despite the backlash:
“We absolutely and completely understand,” Shanks told USA TODAY Sports. “It’s not a different reaction than what we had prepared ourselves for internally at Fox Sports. We discuss it. We talk about what happened then. What type of person is Mike is now? What debt has he paid to society? We still believe it’s the right thing to do.”
“Clearly, we knew that there was potential to be a reaction,” Shanks said. “We spent a lot of time with Mike. We looked at his experience playing in the league after he paid his debt to society.”
“We looked at his interaction and support he’s gotten from people like Andy Reid at the Chiefs and (former NFL coach) Tony Dungy. Over the last 10 or 11 years, not only has he paid his debt to society, but he’s done everything a person who has made a terrible mistake like that can do. We felt it was the right person at the right time for us.”
The backlash does seem to be dying down a bit, at least for now. The petition had 71,000 signatures at the end of August, but 83,143 as of Thursday afternoon. And Fox isn’t making personnel changes just based on a petition from critics (if they did, Skip Bayless probably wouldn’t work there), and Vick hasn’t said anything too controversial since the Kaepernick comments. But we’ll see if this proves to be a good move for the company in the long run.