Friday, April 23, 2010

Sports columnist Aaron McFarling: Memo to Vick: Time to clarify

(UPDATE, Friday, 1:53 p.m.: For a transcript of Brenden Hill's Friday response to this column, visit

George Daniels manages a bookstore. He is not President Obama's press secretary. He is not the public-relations contact for a Fortune 500 company.

Nonetheless, he's become quite the media magnet this week.

"That was never my intent," Daniels said Thursday. "Believe me."

Oh, I believe him. And I believe him when he says Michael Vick's management company has promised that a donation of at least $1,000 will be made to the Humane Society of Montgomery County, using proceeds from the quarterback's autograph signing at Daniels' store Saturday morning.

Ron Brown, president of the humane society's board of directors, believes Daniels, too. Even though Vick's people have not contacted him directly, Brown has been told by Daniels that the money will be forthcoming to his organization.

"We have a verbal agreement," Brown said, "and I have no reason not to trust the man."

Nobody does. By all accounts, George Daniels is an honest businessman and a good guy. Any skepticism of him would be unfair.

But skepticism of Vick is not. He, and everyone around him, ought to know that by now.

Given that, where the heck are Vick's people in all this? Why won't they step up and clarify any of this publicly? Why is The Elite Group, which coordinated this event with Tech Bookstore, not responding to media inquiries? Why can't a member of Vick's camp pick up the phone and call the humane society himself instead of leaving the promises to Daniels? Why is former Tech player Brenden Hill, who is representing The Elite Group for this event, not returning phone calls?

"I don't really know," said Daniels, who has worked with Hill before and found him trustworthy. "Brenden called me earlier today and I told him that people wanted to talk to him. He said he's coming into town [Thursday] evening and is willing to talk to people tomorrow if they would like to speak with him."

Terrific. Maybe we'll run into each other at Kroger.

Hill has to know people start making plans for this sort of thing before today, right? He has to know some folks are conflicted. This isn't Cal Ripken or Tony Gwynn signing autographs Saturday. This is Vick -- perhaps the most controversial athlete of the past decade -- making his first official visit to campus since being released from prison.

All we have from Vick's camp is this Wednesday tweet by MichaelVickZone, the Twitter feed for the quarterback's official Web site: "We will be making a donation from the autograph signing to the Montgomery County Humane Society!! Thanks to everyone for the support!!"

That's a start!!

But the most vital question remains unanswered. The donation amount -- in relation to the overall take -- matters. People deserve to know how much of their money is going to a charitable cause and how much of it will be pocketed by Vick and/or his people.

And that information needs to come from somebody other than the bookstore manager, who

A) Doesn't know the percentage.

And ...

B) Is merely providing the space for the event and not handling any of the autograph money.

The on-site price for Vick's autograph is $30. So when the 34th person pays for a scribble -- presumably a mere fraction of the line -- The Elite Group will eclipse $1,000 in gross sales. What then? Does a percentage of the ensuing sales go to the humane society, too? If so, how much?

These are critical variables, the kind of stuff a dad might want to know when he trots his son into the bookstore Saturday morning. Tell me you wouldn't feel differently under these two scenarios:

1. You pay $30. Vick takes $2 of it and gives the rest to the humane society.

2. You pay $30. Vick takes $28 of it and gives the rest to the humane society.

Maybe some wouldn't feel differently. Maybe some people want Vick's autograph badly enough that the money could go to build a bingo hall in Beirut and they wouldn't care.

But for those who cheered Vick in the late 1990s and felt betrayed by him when he got involved in dog fighting, the donation amount is a potential deal-breaker. It's the difference between overwhelming help for a local charity and a token gesture. In one case, the autograph signing seems another positive step on Vick's recovery road; in the other, it's a PR tax for doing business.

He has every right to do either.

But potential autograph seekers should have access to the details so they can make their decision accordingly.

Help us out here, Michael. Which is it?

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