Thursday, August 27, 2015

MMA Fighter Offers Dog-Loving Steelers Fans A Way To Protest Michael Vick Joining The Team

Gordon "Shotgun" Shell is a retired mixed martial arts fighter with a second career as a vigilante dogfight buster, pit bull advocate and semi-professional Michael Vick objector.

This week, Shell's been hearing from many former fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers who are unhappy that Vick -- an NFL quarterback who spent 18 months in jail in 2008 and 2009 for his role in an interstate dogfighting operation -- has been signed to a one-year contract with the team.

So Shell, who is based in Detroit, decided to offer these folks something to make them feel a little better: a special anti-Vick shirt made up in Steelers colors.

"I'm going to offer free shipping to Pennsylvania residents so the shirts make it to the games," Shell told The Huffington Post.

What's with the slogan, you may ask? 

About five years ago, Shell retired from fighting due to a serious heart condition.

But he's offered to get back into the cage under one condition -- that Michael Vick joins him in a televised battle to raise money for animal welfare groups. Hence, "Fight me Mike Vick!"

Shell has promised to call off his protests and encourage forgiveness if Vick pays this (potentially gory) penance. 

"I think the public wants and needs blood to feel closure," Shell said. "I just want a clean hard fight in a great event that can raise awareness and funds."

For the last few years, Shell has been wearing and selling black-and-white versions of his T-shirts. He estimates he's sold about 4,000 so far. He uses the proceeds to buy things like bulletproof vests, which he wears for protection when he's out rescuing dogs. 

The new line of Steelers shirts launched on Wednesday, a day after it was announced that Vick would be joining the team. The quarterback's arrival has caused some longtime Steelers fans to sever their allegiance.

"I have been a Steelers fan since I was 9 years old, and I still have my very first little wool hat with the pompom on it," said Jean Keating, founder of a pit bull rescue group. "It breaks my heart to not cheer for the black and gold, but my dogs are family and family comes first."

The Pittsburgh nonprofit Hello Bully, which works with dogs that have been rescued from the fighting circuit, is urging people to call and email the Steelers and register their unhappiness that Vick is joining the team.

Shell says he, too, is disappointed that Vick has re-emerged -- especially, he says, since "I honestly thought he was done."

But since Vick's not done, and the protesters aren't done, then neither is Shell -- and he's feeling creative.

"I think the new colors freshen the shirt," he said, "and give it a strong meaning to disgruntled Steelers fans."

UPDATE: 5:20 p.m. -- Chris Shigas, a spokesman for Vick, told HuffPost in an email that he thinks Vick has already raised plenty of awareness for animal welfare, in part by campaigning for legislation to make it a federal crime to attend an animal fight.

"I am proud of the work in the community that Michael Vick has accomplished," Shigas said.

As for Shell's direct challenge, Shigas gave what seemed to be an oblique no.

"Many people have tried to make money from using Michael Vick’s name," he said. "But threatening violence or cyberbullying is never acceptable."

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