The quarterback, who took his first regular-season pro snap just two weeks ago after serving 18 months in prison, is partnering with BET for a new eight-part docu-series scheduled to air early next year. The program, tentatively titled “The Michael Vick Project,” spotlights his controversial comeback with the Philadelphia Eagles while also examining his tumultuous past – including his troubled childhood and his 2007 arrest for running a dogfighting ring.
“I just want people to really get to know me as an individual,” Vick said last week in an interview from his home in Philadelphia. “What I want to do is change the perception of me. I am a human being. I’ve made some mistakes in the past, and I wish it had never happened. But it’s not about how you fall, but about how you pick yourself up.”
The onetime NFL star’s decision to expose his private life to a television audience follows a flurry of recent news and sports media interviews, which began with “60 Minutes” in mid-August. The Vick series is a gamble for a quarterback who is eager to rehabilitate his tarnished image but also doesn’t want to incur the further wrath of animal rights protesters, many of whom argued against his reinstatement to the NFL.
That may be difficult. Officials with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals expressed skepticism about the project.
“People who abuse animals don’t deserve to be rewarded,” said PETA spokesman Dan Shannon. “They shouldn’t be given multimillion-dollar contracts … or given the privilege of being a role model. We don’t believe Michael Vick understands the seriousness of his crime. I think he’s sorry he got caught, but only time will tell if he’s truly remorseful.”
The project is being produced by DuBose Entertainment; Vick’s production company, MV7 Productions; and Category 5 Entertainment. No one associated with the production would comment on Vick’s compensation for the series. In August, a federal judge approved Vick’s six-year plan to repay creditors an estimated $20 million and emerge from bankruptcy.
Producers of the Vick series emphasized the program should be considered a docu-series – not a typical reality show like VH-1’s “The T.O. Show,” which revels in the excesses of its flamboyant star, wide receiver Terrell Owens. The tone of Vick’s show, say producers, will be serious and somber as it focuses on his personal struggles since his release, including the strains on his relationships with his fiancee, Kijafa Frink, and his children. It will also revisit the federal prison in Leavenworth, Kan. where Vick spent 1 1/2 years behind bars and the Virginia property where he ran and financed a dogfighting ring.
“This show can be a blueprint for so many kids,” he said. “I want to show them that things are going to happen, that they’re not going to get through life without dealing with some kind of adversity. I want to show that if they have a fall from grace, this is how they can turn it around. We want this to be a story of hope.”
James DuBose, executive producer for the project, said the series will be much more illuminating than Vick’s recent media interviews.
“We’ve heard the results, but we have not seen the process of how Michael got to where he was,” said DuBose, who has produced several reality-based series for BET. “This is the raw storytelling of what happened, why and how.”
The project has the support of the Eagles, the NFL and former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy, who has acted as Vick’s mentor since his imprisonment, say the producers. Also on board, they say, is the Humane Society, which has enlisted Vick in its battle to end the widespread abuse of dogs in the inner city.
BET’s new entertainment chief, Loretha Jones, said the Vick project fits squarely into the network’s new branding strategy of family values, cultural uplift and community pride. When she learned several months ago that Vick was being released, Jones was immediately interested in developing a series around him.
“I did not reach out for this show in order to court controversy,” said Jones. “That’s not where we’re taking the network. … It’s important for us to capture this important moment to see what someone does when they have the opportunity to rebuild themselves. It might serve as a road map for young men facing the same challenge.”
The series will not downplay Vick’s notorious past, Jones emphasized.
“No way are we excusing or minimizing the atrocity that Michael was involved in,” she said. “Michael makes no attempt to do that. It is inexcusable. However, there are numerous public figures who have engaged in egregious behavior and have been given a second chance.”
Vick is aware that the series may do little to alter the negative perception some hold against him.
“All I can ask is that people are receptive and come to this with an open mind,” said Vick. “I can’t change the past; I can only change the present. I know there are people who can’t forget what I did, but I hope they can someday forgive me.”
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