Why is Michael Vick a Pro Bowl captain? Explaining the NFL's controversial decision & petitions

NFL American Football

The NFL caught many people by surprise in November by announcing controversial former Falcons quarterback Michael Vick as a Pro Bowl captain.

In 2007, Vick's career was interrupted by a 21-month prison sentence he served after pleading guilty to participating in a dogfighting ring.

He missed the following two seasons, eventually returning to play seven more years with three teams before officially retiring in 2017. But for some, his image and reputation is irreparable due to the animal abuse he was complicit in. So, the NFL's announcement that he would be part of Sunday's Pro Bowl sparked outrage.

Here's everything you need to know about Michael Vick and the 2020 Pro Bowl.

FOSTER: It’s time to forgive Michael Vick and move on 

Why is Michael Vick a Pro Bowl captain?

Vick was selected as the 2020 NFC offense Pro Bowl captain in November, along with Darrell Green (NFC defense), Terrell Davis (AFC offense) and Bruce Smith (AFC defense).

The NFL's announcement recounts some of Vick's Hall of Fame-worthy stats, including being the "only quarterback to have at least 20,000 career passing yards (22,464) and 5,000 rushing yards (6,109) in NFL history." It did not mention Vick's off-field controversy.

The Pro Bowl captains "serve as mentors for the Pro Bowl players and [are] present on the sidelines on gameday" in addition to participating in other Pro Bowl events during the week before the game, according to the release.

Animal rights groups protest Pro Bowl, Michael Vick

After the announcement, multiple change.org petitions were created demanding the NFL remove Vick from the captaincy, the largest of which gaining more than 700,000 signatures as of the day before the game.

MORE: Explaining the Pro Bowl rule changes for 2020

How did the NFL and Vick respond?

With hundreds of thousands of people calling for Vick's removal, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell stood behind Vick at a press conference.

"We, over the last nine years or so, have supported Michael in his recognition of the mistake he made," Goodell said, according to television station WSFA. "He's paid a heavy price for that. He has been accountable for it."

Vick hasn't discussed the Pro Bowl controversy specifically, but he has publicly discussed his past actions and their effect on his image many times since serving his sentence. He paid "nearly $1 million restitution for care of the dogs" that were rescued by authorities when he was arrested, The Washington Post reported in September.

Vick "says he regrets it all and didn't have the strength to stop what he realized was wrong about a year before he was caught. ... He has advocated for stronger animal cruelty laws and works to educate children," according to The Post.

"I think people have moved on," Vick told The Post. "I d

on't get any questions about it anymore. People don't talk about it. They don't ask me about it. Life is kind of normal. But I still have a responsibility, and that will never change."

Where does Michael Vick work now?

Since retiring from the NFL in 2017, Vick has become an NFL studio analyst with Fox Sports.

"FOX has given me a great platform," Vick told NFL.com that September. "I want it to last, and will work hard to make it last. I feel I can get better at this."

The summer following his retirement, he was a coaching intern with Andy Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs, and it's possible he may return to coaching in the future.