Philadelphia newspaper's controversial Vick headline: 'TOP DOG'

In case you didn't remember that new Philadelphia Eagles starting quarterback Michael Vick(notes) was once imprisoned for running a dogfighting ring, the city's tabloid newspaper would like to remind you. Here's the front page of Wednesday's edition of the Philadelphia Daily News:

(Although note the not-at-all-accidental use of the word "shocking" in the subhead.)

If you think this is a low blow, you're right. If you think it's out of bounds, I'll respectfully disagree. Vick paid his debt to society and has been a model of behavior since getting released from prison. I'm happy for him and actually find myself rooting for him to redeem himself on the football field. But just because Vick served some time in prison doesn't mean we can't bring up his past. Prison doesn't wipe the slate clean. We shouldn't define Vick for his callous treatment of animals, but we shouldn't forget about it either.

[Related: Eagles name disgraced dogfighter Vick starting quarterback]

And lest we forget that the Philadelphia Daily News is a tabloid newspaper. Provocative headlines are what tabloids do. They thrive on newsstand sales of papers and drawing readers into their websites with headlines like this. It clearly works, because even those appalled by the headline are talking about it today.

This isn't the first time the Daily News has made reference to Vick's criminal past in headline form. Here's a picture of the front page from Aug. 14, 2009, the day after Vick signed with the Eagles:

It's anyone's guess how the paper will cover Vick's stint as the team's quarterback, but I expect that the paper's design editors have already made the template for the "PUT DOWN" headline whenever Vick should be benched, cut or traded.

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