Sending Mixed Messages

By Drew Sharp
Updated: August 26, 2009

DETROIT – Now that the NFL has proven that poor taste and good business go hand in hand, why should it stop with customized Philadelphia Eagles dog jerseys with Michael Vick’s No. 7 on them?

Think of the merchandising potential of marketing lawlessness on NFLshop.com.

The league could sell Plaxico Burress sweatpants for $89.99, customized with a holster stitched inside to protect an illegally concealed firearm necessary for an evening of celebrity clubbing.

The NFL orange prison jumpsuit would be a hot seller for $129.99, customized with a team logo and the name of your favorite convict on the back.

Looking for that special attire for the season-opening tailgate? You can’t do a proper perp walk through the stadium parking lot without your NFL leg irons for $39.99, customized with your favorite team’s colors.

You can buy New England Patriots leashes and Lions water dishes. But if you’re really interested in spoiling your four-legged NFL fan, you can go to the Home/Office category on the Web site and find customized fire hydrants for $109.99. If there’s anything that’s truly deserving of having Vick’s name and number attached to it, this is it.

I went to NFLshop.com Tuesday to see what variations of the Vick jersey I could get for my cocker spaniel.

I couldn’t get BADNEWZ No. 7. Apparently the NFL merchandising police figured a direct reference to Vick’s Bad Newz Kennels and the disgusting acts conducted there crossed the line into insensitivity.

But I could get CONVICK No. 7.

I also could get EXECUTED No. 7, CHOKED No. 7, SHOOTING No. 7, DROWNED No. 7 and ELECTRCUTE No. 7 (because you can’t fit the word “electrocute” within the 10-letter limit).

If it sounds distasteful to revisit what Vick did to those dogs, that’s precisely the point.

Don’t insult my intelligence with idyllic interpretations of moral imperatives when discussing Vick’s “second” chance. He’s closer to his 20th chance. Each time he tortured and killed a pit bull he had a chance for redemption, but he ignored it and continued his illegal gambling operation.

Some say it’s inherently American to forgive and forget if someone has paid his debt to society. But what’s truly inherently American is making a buck. What’s inherently American is finding consumers dim enough that they’ll toss big dollars at a pile of waste sprinkled with perfume.

Vick debuts Thursday for the Eagles with the NFL believing that the money it will make from his return will offset what it will lose from his return.

It’s about business. It never was about fairness. It never was about morality. It never was about an intrinsic equality between the flawed superstar and the flawed commoner.

It’s about prying open the wallets of people who don’t care about the distinctions between right and wrong — as long as they’re sufficiently entertained.