Wife abuse vs. dog abuse

After outrage over Michael Vick's alleged dogfighting, Radar magazine asks whether the sporting world values a pit bull more than a wife.

Published August 17, 2007 7:10PM (EDT)

Radar's editors are in the mood for controversy, it seems. They've created an online quiz (titled "Bitch Slap") aimed at comparing public comments about sport superstars accused of rape or domestic abuse with the spleen spewed at Michael Vick over allegations that he killed and tortured dogs. The quiz asks you to guess which comments, from teammates, coaches and fans, were made about accused rapists or wife batterers and which were directed at the Atlanta Falcons quarterback.

Jen Stein writes, "Vick's critics have been so unforgiving that a reporter in Pittsburgh went so far as to say that the player would have been 'better off raping a woman.' The reporter later apologized for his remarks but, based on people's vitriolic reactions, he may not have been so far off the mark ... It seems that Americans will tolerate certain things from their athletes -- a sexual assault charge, stalking, the occasional domestic dispute -- but they draw the line when it comes to their pooches."

The quotes included in the quiz generally support the author's upfront thesis: The comments directed at Vick are reproachful and full of disgust; the comments about accused domestic abusers or rapists are much more forgiving and make pleas for judgment to be reserved for the courtroom. For instance, the following quote comes from Denise Kaigler, spokeswoman for Reebok (which banned Vick's jersey at its retail stores): "The number of e-mails and statements we're getting from consumers was pretty telling about how disturbing people find these allegations to be." On the flip side, here's a quote from Tampa Bay Devil Rays manager Joe Maddon after learning that outfielder Elijah Dukes' wife had filed for a restraining order against him after he allegedly "left a death threat on her voice mail and sent a photo of a handgun to her cell phone": "In visiting with him, I can see he's pretty much upset. I anticipated that, so I thought the wise thing to do would be to not start him tonight and more than likely play him tomorrow."

Radar's collection of quotes is interesting but hardly makes the case that the general public is more repulsed by an alleged dog abuser than a wife beater. There's no telling whether the handful of quotes selected for the quiz accurately reflects the attitudes of sports fans, coaches and athletes. It's easy enough to think of at least one recent highly publicized rape case in which the accused athletes were not, as a rule, given much leniency in the court of public opinion. (Of course, neither was the alleged victim.) It seems public outrage depends much more on how much media attention a case is given and how much damning evidence is leaked.

By Tracy Clark-Flory

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