The Athlete-Pit Bull Connection
DogsBite.org - A 2007 New York Times article written by Selena Roberts comments on the NFL's pet problem. The scene, she writes, has become the "puppy mill for pit-bull lore." It's hardly a leap to understand why football players closely identify with pit bulls, the ultimate canine warrior. Rhonda Evans, a University of Louisiana-Lafayette professor, is also quoted in the article: "[Pit bulls] fight to the death...Turning away is considered the response of a cur."
Roberts then calls out NFL and NBA athletes involved in pit bull "incidents" over the past year. Yet this combination stretches back much further than 2006.1 In 1987, Sports Illustrated -- a sports magazine -- published the most extensive article about America's "pit bull problem" to date. In the opening paragraph, writer E.M. Swift nails the athlete-pit bull connection by quoting a dog breeder and trainer, "They're athletes. They're wrestlers. They're dead game."
In light of the long-term link between athletes and pit bulls and the recent attack involving James Harrison's pit bull upon his 2-year old son, DogsBite.org has gathered a list2 of athletes and related pit bull incidents. It should also be noted that the pit bull's "relentless" icon serves as a sports metaphor ("he grabs onto it like a pit bull, shaking it, ripping it"), as well as a tough politician metaphor -- despite the fact that many politicians are too afraid to regulate the breed.
Pit Bull Incidents:
- Plaxico Burress - In May 2013, a pit bull owned by Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Plaxico Burress attacked Gina Stasinos who claimed in her December lawsuit she suffered "serious and permanent injuries to her head, body, and limbs" in the attack.
Eric Edholm, "Report: Plaxico Burress’ pitbull attacked neighbor, interfered with her social life," Yahoo Sports, December 2, 2013 (sports.yahoo.com)
- Taiwan Jones - In September 2013, two pit bull-mixes owned by Oakland Raiders cornerback Taiwan Jones killed a pet chihuahua being walked by its owner. Jones claimed to be a "deep animal lover," despite owning dogs bred to destroy other dogs.
"Katie Nelson, "Officials: Dogs owned by Oakland Raiders cornerback Taiwan Jones attack, kill neighbor's dog," Chico Enterprise Record, September 21, 2013 (www.chicoer.com)
- Joey Porter - In July 2011, four pit bull-mastiff mix dogs owned by Arizona Cardinals linebacker Joey Porter got loose and killed a neighbor's dog. In 2006, similar type dogs of Porter's killed a miniature horse after escaping his Pennsylvania home.
"Joey Porter's dogs get loose, kill neighbor's dog," Bakersfield.com, July 8, 2011 (www.bakersfield.com)
- Kyacey Uscola - In May 2010, mixed martial arts fighter Kyacey "Ice Cold" Uscola was attacked by a pack pf pit bulls. He said, I "got chunks bitten out of my shoulder, hip, hamstring and the uh money one ... bit through my urethra" -- pierced his penis.
Nick Thomas, "Kyacey Uscola Attacked by Pit Bulls Outside the TUF House," May 23, 2010 (www.bloddyelbow.com)
- Delanie Walker - In April 2010, San Francisco 49's tight end Delanie Walker was cited for having a "dangerous dog" after one of his pit bulls attacked his pool service man. Police and neighbors said that problems with Walker's pit bulls are not new.
Michael Moore, "49ers' tight end cited for dangerous dog," Morgan Hill Times, April 2, 2010 (www.morganhilltimes.com)
- Derrick Burgess - In October 2009, New England Patriots linebacker Derrick Burgess was sued by neighbors who believe their children might be attacked by his pit bulls. The dogs previously killed the neighbor's kittens and attacked their dog.
Chip Washington, "Neighbors claim NFL linebacker's pit bulls are dangerous," WMC-TV-5, October 29, 2009 (www.wmctv.com)
- James Harrison - In May 2009, the 2-year old son of Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison -- voted NFL's defensive player of the year -- was attacked by Harrison's pit bull. The toddler suffered a severe leg injury and was hospitalized
"Steelers Star Harrison's Dog Attacks Son, Will Be Put Down," ThePittsburghChannel.com, May 22, 2009 (www.thepittsburghchannel.com)
- Steve Foley - In June 2008, former Houston Texan linebacker Steve Foley was charged with a felony after his loose pit bulls attacked Twana Schulz causing severe injury. The pit bulls also killed the puppy Schulz had been holding in her hands.
Associated Press, "Former Texan Steve Foley charged after dog attack," The Dallas News, June 5, 2008 (www.dallasnews.com)
- Antonio Pierce - In February 2008, Giant's linebacker Antonio Pierce was charged with animal neglect after one of his pit bulls escaped his property and was found to be sick. At the time, Pierce was in Phoenix preparing for Super Bowl XLII.
Ralph Vacchiano, "Antonio Pierce cited on pit bull charge," NYDailyNews.com, February 15, 2008 (www.nydailynews.com)
- Jerome Mathis - In December 2007, Houston Texan receiver Jerome Mathis received a misdemeanor citation after his pit bull chewed through a fence and behaved aggressively. At the time, Mathis was also caring for three pit bull puppies.
Associated Press, "Mathis cited for loose pit bulls," ESPN NFL, December 12, 2007 (sports.espn.go.com)
- Roy Jones Jr. - Also in December, boxer Roy Jones Jr. admitted he'd allowed his pit bulls to fight on his property. He later said the quote was taken of context. At the time, Jones owned a cockfighting ring in Louisiana, the last state to allow the bloodsport.
Ian Begley, "Roy Jones: I let my dogs fight," NYDailyNews.com, December 30, 2007 (www.dailynews.com)
- Gerald Cavlan - In August 2007, a 17-month undercover BBC investigation of dogfighting aired that caught County Tyrone Gaelic football star Gerald Cavlan boasting about a dogfighting club he co-founded called "Bulldog Sanctuary Kennels."3
"A dogfighting case rocks Gaelic football," Animal People, September 2007 (www.animalpeoplenews.org)
- Michael Vick - In April 2007, authorities searched the Virginia property owned by Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick. He was later sentenced to 23 months in prison for running a "cruel and inhumane" dogfighting ring and lying about it.
"Virginia dogfighting case embarrasses pro football," Animal People, June 2007 (www.animalpeoplenews.org)
- Jonathan Babineaux - In February 2007, Atlanta Falcons defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux killed an aggressive pit bull owned by his girlfriend. Following an investigation, the DA dismissed the felony-animal cruelty charge against Babineaux.
Associated Press, "Cruelty Charges Tossed Against Babineaux," ESPN.com, November 7, 2007 (www.espn.com)
- Tank Johnson - In December 2006, a cache of firearms was discovered at the home of Chicago Bears defensive tackle Tank Johnson. The raid followed complaints from neighbors that Johnson had neglected the pit bulls he kept in his backyard.
Animal Abuse Case Details: Terry Johnson, Pet-abuse.com
- Ron Artest - In October 2006, animal control officers were called to Sacramento Kings Ron Artest's home after the report of a "loose pit bull." Between July 2006 and February 2007, officers responded to 7 complaints about his dogs.
Dorothy Korber and Christina Jewett, "Artest's dog woes aren't new," ScrippsNews, February 9, 2007 (public.shns.com)
- Joey Porter - In September 2006, two dogs belonging to Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Joey Porter -- a pit bull and a mastiff -- got loose from his home and killed a miniature horse at a nearby farm. The dogs had allegedly escaped their 6-foot fenced yard.
Mike Bucsko, "Joey Porter's dogs get loose, kill miniature horse," Post-Gazette, September 21, 2006 (www.post-gazette.com)
- Darnell Sanders - In April 2005, a pit bull and an American bulldog owned by Chicago Bears player Darnell Sanders escaped the yard of its dogsitter and attacked Ernie Assad. The victim underwent two brains surgeries after the attack and died 11 days later.
"Ex-Brown, Parma tussling over his beloved dogs," Cleveland.com, June 30, 2005 (www.cleveland.com)
- Qyntel Woods - In October 2004, authorities traced to an injured female pit bull to Portland Trail Blazers small forward Qyntel Woods. In January 2005, Woods pleaded guilty to misdemeanor animal abuse and was sentenced to 12 months probation.
"NBA Player Pleads Guilty in Dogfighting Case," ABC News, January 21, 2005 (wwwabcnews.go.com)
- LeShon Johnson - In 2000, 2003 and 2004, New York Giants running back LeShon Johnson was arrested for dogfighting. The first two arrests produced no charges. After the 2004 arrest in Huges County, Johnson pleaded guilty to felony dogfighting.
Animal Abuse Case Details: LeShon Johnson, Pet-abuse.com
- Thomas Hamner - In May 2001, the Philadelphia Eagles released running back Thomas Hamner, who had been charged in New Jersey with animal cruelty several times over the past year. In July, he pleaded guilty to one animal cruelty charge for beating his pit bull.
"Monday Roundup: Eagles release two players," CNNSI.com, May 21, 2001 (www.sportsillustrated.cnn.com)
- Latrell Sprewel - In October 1994, one of two pit bulls owned by NBA star Latrell Sprewel, a guard for the Golden State Warriors at the time, viciously attacked his 4-year old daughter. The animal bit off one of the little girl's ears and tore into her lips, forehead and nose.
"Sprewell's Daughter Injured in Attack by Family Pit Bull," Philadelphia Daily News, October 27, 1994 (www.philly.com)
- Livingstone Bramble - In June 1984, Livingstone Bramble won the world lightweight boxing title becoming the first world champion from St. Kitts and Nevis. Bramble raised fighting pit bulls, which have since been banned from the two-island nation.
Michael Katz, "Bramble Takes Mancini's Title," New York Times, June 2, 1984 (www.nytimes.com)
- Jack Johnson - In February 1910, the first African American world heavyweight boxing champion, Jack Johnson, was arrested in Detroit after one of his "prize bulldogs" nearly chewed off a man's arm. Johnson vowed to "save" the dog from destruction.
"Jack Johnson Arrested.; Negro's Bulldog Lacerates Detroit Citizen's Arm -- May Kill Canine," New York Times, February 9, 1910 (www.nytimes.com)
2DogsBite.org did not perform an exhaustive web search to create this list, nor do we have a background in "sports" history. We suspect that many other incidents involving professional athletes and pit bulls exist.
3Dogfighters and breeders of fighting dogs commonly refer to pit bulls as "bulldogs." Recognized pit bull trainers, such as Diane Jessup, do as well. Jessup states on her website, the "original working bulldog" is the pit bull.
05/23/09: Steelers Linebacker James Harrison's Pit Bull Attacks His Son
09/07/08: What's the Difference Between a Pit Bull and a Hockey Mom?
06/05/08: Steve Foley, Former Football Player, May Be Charged in Dog Attack