Fox Sports pres­i­dent stands by Vick

Net­work adds for­mer QB to NFL pregame show

USA TODAY US Edition - - SPORTS - A.J. Perez For­mer quar­ter­back Michael Vick will be a stu­dio an­a­lyst for “Fox NFL Kick­off ” and will make ap­pear­ances on Fox Sports 1 shows.

Fox Sports Pres­i­dent Eric Shanks said he ab­so­lutely and com­pletely un­der­stands the back­lash over the net­work’s hir­ing of for­mer quar­ter­back Michael Vick, though Shanks added it was “the right thing to do.”

Vick will be a stu­dio an­a­lyst for Fox NFL Kick­off and will make ap­pear­ances on Fox Sports 1 shows, as first re­ported by USA TO­DAY Sports on Fri­day. A Change.org pe­ti­tion ask­ing Shanks to re­con­sider the hire be­cause or­ga­niz­ers “do not be­lieve that Michael Vick is re­pen­tant” for his part in a dog­fight­ing ring more than a decade ago had gath­ered more than 60,000 sig­na­tures as of Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon.

“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 talk about what hap­pened then. What type of per­son is Mike now? What debt has he paid to so­ci­ety? We still be­lieve it’s the right thing to do.”

Vick served 18 months in pris- on af­ter his 2007 con­vic­tion re­lated to a dog­fight­ing op­er­a­tion on his prop­erty in Vir­ginia that led to his re­lease from the At­lanta Fal­cons. Vick re­turned to the NFL in 2009 with the Philadel­phia Ea­gles and fin­ished his 13sea­son ca­reer with the Pitts­burgh Steel­ers in 2015.

As ev­i­denced by the pe­ti­tion and through so­cial me­dia re­ac­tion, many thought that Vick’s ties to dog­fight­ing should pre- clude him from hav­ing a broad­cast ca­reer.

“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.”

For­mer NFL re­ceiver Nate Burleson, who is among the new faces on CBS’ The NFL To­day pregame show, said Vick has paid his debt.

“If you don’t like Michael Vick, fine,” Burleson said. “If you don’t want to watch Michael Vick, fine. But if you’re ask­ing him to pay af­ter he spent time in prison for a crime, then how much more work does he have to do? Does he have to pay for it the rest of his life?

“So­ci­ety says when some­body com­mits a crime, they go to jail, and once they get out, they have served their time. I have a prob­lem with peo­ple who have a prob­lem with Vick hav­ing a job.”

CHAR­LIE RIEDEL, AP

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