Almost three years after he was released from federal prison for his part in a dogfighting ring, and after two full seasons back in the NFL, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick is still the most disliked athlete in America.
This according to a survey conducted by Nielsen and partner E-Poll Market Research and released by Forbes. While other football players like Plaxico Burress and Ndamukong Suh (both of whom also made the list) have indulged in more recent examples of bad decisions on and off the field, the memories Vick left from his time at the head of the Bad Newz Kennels ring haven't faded away.
Vick, who has led a lot of these lists over the past couple of years, continues to struggle with casual NFL fans who know him mainly for his dog fighting legal mess, even as close followers of the sport love him. Vick's high awareness number (42%) suggests he's a known quantity outside the hardcore NFL crowd. "His awareness is up there with Peyton Manning, but a lot of it is people knowing him for the wrong reasons," says Stephen Master, VP of Sports for Nielsen.
Vick made a big splash in the 2010 season, but underperformed in 2011, as did most of his teammates. He also spent time in both of those seasons on the injury list, and his mobile style may be catching up to him.
Burress and Suh were on the list for different reasons -- Burress for shooting himself in the leg in a New York nightclub and serving time for the offense, and Suh primarily for a number of on-field violations of the NFL's rules regarding player safety and contact after the play. He picked the worst possible time for his most egregious offense, stomping on Green Bay Packers guard Evan Dietrich-Smith during a Thanksgiving Day game in which America's eyes were on the Lions and the Packers. These actions have done a lot to downgrade the American opinion of a player who has always been personable and intelligent off the field.
"He went from being so popular to being a pariah in one season," says Master. The good news for Suh is that he's a young player who can shake off a mistake if he keeps it clean from now on."
For Vick? Not so much.
Other athletes on the list included golfer Tiger Woods, basketball player Kris Humphries (the Kardashian Factor, no doubt) and noted NASCAR hothead Kurt Busch. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger dropped off the list this year -- apparently, the stigma that resulted from the alleged sexual misconduct for which Roethlisberger was never charged has been removed.