MMA fighter Gordon “Shotgun” Shell retired from the ring in 2010 due to a serious heart condition, but, he’s offering to get back in the ring under one condition: Michael Vick joins him in a televised battle to raise money for animal welfare groups. Since retiring from fighting, Shell has worked as the vice president of an innovative countertop company, but he has taken up a second career of busting dog fights and rescuing and advocating for pit bulls.
For the past few years, Shell has been selling black and white t-shirts with the slogan “Fight me Mike Vick!” through his website. After hearing the outrage following the announcement that the Pittsburgh Steelers signed former dogfighter Michael Vick to a one-year contract, he decided to offer the folks in Pennsylvania something special: a special anti-Vick shirt in Steelers’ black and gold.
Even better? Shell is offering free shipping to supporters in Pennsylvania. “I’m going to offer free shipping to Pennsylvania residents so the shirts make it to the games,” Shell told The Huffington Post. The new line of Steelers shirts launched on Wednesday, the 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.
Shell 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.” Shell took to his Facebook to say that he extended the offer when Vick was originally released from prison for dogfighting in 2009, and that he’s not “8 years late to the party.”
Vick has been less than amused about the former MMA fighter’s campaign against him. In 2013, Vick was scheduled to make an appearance at a Pennsylvania Buffalo Wild Wings to sign autographs and take pictures (with the hefty price tag of $75 each). He cancelled after animal rights activists caught wind of the event and flooded the Buffalo Wild Wings Facebook page with angry comments. While Vick’s camp claimed they didn’t even know about the appearance, a new party took over as host for the event and received similar backlash.
When asked about the fight in 2013, Vick’s agent Chris Shigas said that he “can’t comment on any threat by someone to fight him.” However, yesterday Shigas told the HuffPost through email that he thinks Vick has already raised plenty of awareness for animal welfare through campaigns to make attending a dogfight illegal. “I am proud of the work in the community that Michael Vick has accomplished,” Shigas said. “Many people have tried to make money from using Michael Vick’s name, but threatening violence or cyberbullying is never acceptable.”
Shell responded on Facebook by saying:
“I never once threatened Vick, nor would I attack him outside of a ring or cage. If I was to attack Vick then that puts me at his level and does nothing for my cause of raising awareness and funds to end dog fighting … We need to be above that type of protest, we need to speak intelligently and in a non-aggressive manner to be taken seriously and heard,” he said. “This is an invite from one aging athlete/advocate to a much younger faster, richer athlete and alleged advocate to put on an event that would reach millions of viewers and possibly raise millions of dollars to end Dog Fighting.”
Shell is disappointed that Vick has re-emerged, saying, “I honestly thought he was done.” But since Vick’s not done, nor are protestors, then neither is Shell. “I think the new colors freshen the shirt and give it a strong meaning to disgruntled Steelers fans,” Shell said. 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 raise their voice in anger that Vick is joining the team.