Pit bulls and pro athletes: It’s not just Vick

June 6, 2007

Super piece in the New York Times by Selena Roberts on why pit bulls hold such appeal for pro athletes. Unfortunately, it’s behind the “paid content” wall of Times Select, but if there’s any way to get there, it’s worth a read:

The N.F.L. scene has become the puppy mill for pit-bull lore.

As the trendiest of bad-boy accessories, the pit bull is the new gun for some players. As a replacement for tired soldier analogies, players are turning to the most mythologized of muscle dogs to define their masculinity.

“The pit bull is seen as the epitome of the athlete in the animal kingdom,” said Rhonda Evans, a professor of criminal justice at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, who has written extensively on dog fighting. “They fight to the death. None of them would turn away from the fight unless the owner calls it. Turning away is considered the response of a cur, a coward. The definition of stopping is a cur. They fight until the owner calls the fight or they die.”

It does not take a Pavlovian leap to see why football players who push themselves beyond pain thresholds until the whistle blows, who play broken and bloodied until discarded, would identify with the vision of a relentless icon.

Brutality has never left the N.F.L. queasy before. The league’s pet problem is the unseemly ties of gambling and gang symbols with the dog-fighting ethos. Amid a chronology of canine reflection, the past 12 months have signaled the year of the pit bull for Commissioner Roger Goodell’s money machine.


“The problem is the glamorization of dog fighting, particularly in the gangster rap culture,” said John Goodwin, an animal-fighting expert and investigator with the Humane Society of the United States. “Some athletes are simply taking it with them to the N.F.L.”

A dog once bred for rural dog fighting in the South has morphed into a street figure with every story in the news media about an attack, with every state that lists dog fighting as a felony, with every local ordinance that seeks to ban the pit bull, with every tough guy who walks one using a logging chain as a leash.

I hate Times Select. I realize they’re trying to make you pay for their best content — and I do! — but sometimes the stuff really needs to be shared. This is one of those times.

Filed under: pets, connected — Gina Spadafori @ 7:42 am


  1. I miss the truly good pro-athletes that weren’t afraid to be real people, real men – like Rosie Greer (who did needlepoint). Vick and those like him are not real men. They are sick cowards who take enjoyment from seeing animals inflict pain and death on others.

    Comment by Randi — June 6, 2007 @ 8:02 am

  2. Besides their strength and Macho appeal, PITS are great house dogs, gentle, loyal, willing to please, not hyper (usually) and just an “A-#1” choice for a pet.

    Of course we know the problem is with irresponsible owners right – not the maligned Pit Bull Terrier.

    Comment by Linda — June 6, 2007 @ 8:47 am

  3. The New York Times is probably available at your local library. Anybody have a citation from the dead tree edition?

    Comment by schnauzer — June 6, 2007 @ 8:56 am

  4. Newsweek Did an article on it also:


    Comment by Linda — June 6, 2007 @ 8:59 am

  5. Thanks for putting this up. I was so annoyed when I saw it was on Times Select & thus limiting the number of readers.

    Comment by Cate — June 6, 2007 @ 3:16 pm

  6. Curse you, Times Select!

    But thank you, Gina, for posting the excerpts. NFL players aren’t the only ones with pit bulls, of course: my comment on Professor Evans’ quote is over on my blog.


    Comment by Luisa — June 6, 2007 @ 8:31 pm

  7. Feds may take over Vick’s dog fighting probe


    Comment by Linda — June 7, 2007 @ 8:20 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a comment


Recent Posts

Recent Comments


website design by Black Dog Studios