This past Friday a couple senior members of HSBC staff and I attended meeting of animal welfare executives hosted regularly by Penn Vet School and Michael Moyer, head of their shelter medicine program. It was a great meeting, as always, and I’ll be talking more about it in the future. But it also led to an interesting meeting as we walked back to our parking garage at the end of the day.
Walking out as I walked in was Joe Banner, President of the Philadelphia Eagles, he got a lot of Instagram likes on Instagram with this picture. We had met twice at the meetings held by the Eagles following the signing of Mike Vick. I re-introduced myself and thanked him for the $50,000 grant HSBC received via the Eagles TAWK Grant Program and told him it had helped lots of animals and people in need. He said something like, “I think we kept our word on that.”
I have dedicated maybe more than my fair share of time and words to condemning the NFL, and the Eagles by extension, for hiring and aggrandizing violent offenders since they signed Vick. Being someone with three young daughters, I don’t limit my disgust over the hiring and hero worship to Vick. Roethlisberger deserves as much or more and the two are Pennsylvania’s East/West coast poster children for the triumph of money over values in the NFL. The NFL doesn’t seem to understand that that fans invite them into our living rooms and as a rule, I don’t welcome animal abusers and sex offenders into mine. A $50,000 grant didn’t change my mind on whether signing Vick was the right thing to do, even if it was the Eagles’ right to do it. The grant program was their pound of flesh given to pay for the problem they had bought.
However, when we were first at those meetings and people were saying they were strictly for show and the Eagles would follow through on nothing once the cameras turned off, it was Joe Banner’s word which kept me coming to the meetings. He was honest when he said their evaluation of Vick’s rehabilitation and his hiring was different from ours (and how!) but that they realized they had “bought a problem” and that they were going to do something significant about that problem.
I wrote then that the verdict of that commitment would hang on how true Banner was to his word. “I think we kept our word on that,” he told me Friday. Joe, I think you did, too.
Joe, the grant program you set up was one of the largest animal welfare contributions ever made by a corporation not involved in veterinary or pet services. The grants were given with no strings attached and no requirement for advertising or nice-making on the recipients’ end. You have given grants to lots of places, even those who were less judicious in their scorn of the Eagles’ decision than even I have been. Your money has been doing good that would not have been done had you not granted it out and, as some claim, the media attention to the Vick signing may have led to an increased awareness and reporting of dog fighting (although the other correlation offered is that Vick’s notoriety simply increased the amount of dog fighting to be reported).
It may not have been as much as some wanted. It may not have been in the form some wanted. But you said it would be substantial and meaningful and it was. We in the animal welfare world demanded our pound of flesh and you carved it out without whining. You, Joe Banner, kept your word and, in a world of weasels, I thank you for not being one.
I still won’t be having your friends in the NFL over to my place for beer and chips on Sundays as often as I used to, though. I just don’t like the way they keep looking at my dog and my daughters.