Falcons Asked to Implement PETA's Empathy Course for Athletes—for Everyone's Sake
For Immediate Release:
June 4, 2015
David Perle 202-483-7382
Atlanta – This morning, PETA sent a letter to Atlanta Falcons Owner and Chair Arthur Blank thanking him for the team’s swift decision to dismiss linebacker Prince Shembo—who was charged with aggravated cruelty to animals for allegedly kicking and killing his ex-girlfriend’s dog, whose injuries included bone fractures, head trauma, and internal hemorrhaging—and calling on Blank to head off future abuse by mandating teamwide empathy training for all players. As PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to abuse in any way”—points out, fans have come out in droves to call for teams to take firm action against violence both on and off the field. PETA further stresses that if Michael Vick had taken its empathy course before his arrest for dogfighting crimes, instead of afterward, a great deal of suffering—and shame to professional football—might have been prevented.
“Professional athletes are set up to be role models, so it’s critical for NFL teams to give its players the clear message that bullying and abusing anyone is unacceptable,” says PETA Senior Vice President Daphna Nachminovitch. “We are pleased that strong action has been taken in the Shembo case, and now, PETA is renewing its call to provide all players with empathy training in the hope of preventing further violent attacks like this one.”
PETA’s letter to Atlanta Falcons Owner and Chair Arthur Blank follows.
June 4, 2015
Owner and Chair
Dear Mr. Blank:
On behalf of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and our more than 3 million members and supporters, many of whom are NFL fans, we thank you for your decision to release Prince Shembo after he was charged with aggravated cruelty to animals for allegedly killing a dog in the care of his ex-girlfriend.
Over the past year, NFL fans have made it abundantly clear that they will not support players who abuse others and that they want their teams to take decisive action in order to keep violent athletes off the football field. Cruelty to animals not only is a violent crime but also has long been recognized as a predictor of violence to humans. In fact, the National District Attorneys Association states that taking “animal abuse as seriously as crimes against humans is important” and that when “any form of violence is present in a home, others may be at risk.” According to the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, 76 percent of people who abuse animals also abuse a family member, and the American Psychiatric Association identifies cruelty to animals as one of the diagnostic criteria for conduct disorders.
Professional athletes are role models in our society, so it’s critical for NFL teams to send their players the message that bullying and abusing anyone is unacceptable. We would again suggest, as we have in the past, that requiring all athletes to receive empathy training would give them more self-respect and positive guidelines for how to behave toward others. Former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick completed our eight-hour basic class in empathy and animal protection at PETA’s headquarters following his arrest for dogfighting crimes. Perhaps if he had taken such a course earlier, he might never have caused such suffering and brought disrepute to his team and the league. One always hopes.
Thank you for your consideration and for your right action.
Very truly yours,
Ingrid E. Newkirk