Last month, an email popped up in our inbox from an unknown sender. These usually immediately fall victim to the pointer finger slamming down on top of the "Delete" button, but the title "Michael Vick Launches New Online Auto Showroom 'ShowMike.com'" held the digit from it's normal seek and destroy response to PR pitches.
In the body the message explained that the Philadelphia Eagles QB was launching an "interactive auto online showroom," likening it to a "Facebook for cars." Not only could you upload your own cars, but you could see plenty of athletes and celebrities who had already and would continue to post their rides, too.
“I love football, but many fans may not know that I am a big-time car enthusiast,” said Vick in a statement and video in the email. “I’ve met a lot of famous people in my career and I asked some of them to join me. Have you seen Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie’s car? Now, that’s a ride ... If you appreciate cars, check out my rides and upload your car. I might just pick your vehicle to highlight on the site.”
Those highlights are aptly named "Vick's Picks."
The natural first reactions from the media to all of this were, "huh? Wasn't he bankrupt? How does he have so many cars?" This was to be expected. News just broke in September that he was finally paying off $20 million in debt, a note that a lot of people probably hadn't heard. And even if they had, they were probably still wondering why he had already spent his money on a fleet of custom cars that includes (via BoldRide):
2013 Infiniti QX56 – 26″ KMC Wheels Window Tint Escort 9500ci Radar
2012 Cadillac Escalade EXT Matte Gray Edition – 26″ KMC Slides Matte Gray Wrap Black Out Lights Escort 9500ci Rosen DVD Headrest
2012 Jaguar XJ8 – 22″ Savini Wheels 9500ci Radar Rosen DVD Headrest Window Tint
2012 Lexus LX570 – 24″ Asanti Forged Wheels 9500Ci Radar Window Tint Rosen DVD Headrest
2012 Audi A8L – A8L 24″ Lexanis Window Tint 9500ci Radar Myron Davis DVD Headrest
He also told us that he recently added a Bentley Flying Spur, which is about another $200,000. If you totaled up the base MSRPs for those models, the fleet would be valued at about $562,000, and that's without any of the extras. Obviously, we don't know the exact prices he paid for these cars or how much all of his rims and accessories cost, but let's just say $600,000 for a nice rounded number.
Questioning his finances wasn't the only negative reaction.
Back in October, a poll from Forbes.com that tallied 1,100 votes of people 13 and older showed that Mike Vick was still the most disliked player in the NFL. He received 53 percent of the vote, with Manti Te'o coming in second (for what?). This was extremely evident in the comment sections in every auto site, despite this website launching more than four years after he was released from his 19-month sentence in federal prison.
On Autoblog.com, a huge majority of the comments were immediate responses that had nothing to do with cars, focusing only on his dog fighting charges:
No, the analogy doesn't work as intended. Even when the comments weren't hanging on the dog fighting, the interpretations of the website design and the look of the cars were largely negative, mostly focusing on racial stereotypes:
Is it surprising to find all the hate? No, not really. Working on the Internet, you learn how petty and ridiculously obnoxious people can get sitting behind their computers keyboards. Another thing you learn, however, is that people quickly forget and how short their attention spans are. It has been SIX YEARS since Vick was sentenced and more than four since he was released from prison. Yet, when it comes to Vick, this mindset seems nonexistent. More than 100 people on Autoblog felt it necessary to take the time to express just how much they loathe him. Whether this is warranted or not is up to you.
So, what is it like to feel like you've done your time, you've paid your dues, and you're trying to move into a different part of your life only to be met with more suppression? We were able to get Mr. Vick on the phone and discuss the new site, exactly what his situation is with buying and owning the cars, and how all of this negative blowback on a passion of his affects him.
When did this whole idea start?
We thought about it throughout the spring, and I’m a guy who’s a car enthusiast. I love cars. I’m constantly buying new cars, switching them out, just trying to get what fits. We just thought about about creating a website where people can put their cars up, can post pictures of their cars, whether they dream them up or whatever, and I can put my cars up there. You can sell them, you can buy them, and it appeals to everybody. Everybody can benefit from it. So, throughout the spring we just put a lot of thought into it and came up with ShowMike.com.
And you launched it with a friend of yours who also does customization?
Yeah, I launched it with my friend. I call him Jersey Mike. He customized all my cars and he does a lot of things that are out of the ordinary. If you just give him a car and allow him to work his magic, I guarantee you’ll be happy with the result. He’s been a good friend of mine and I enjoy working with him.
When did you guys originally link up?
We linked up about three years ago through a mutual friend. I let him put some rims on one of my cars, but he did a lot of other things too. He put a system in it, customized my seats, and customized the speaker system in the trunk, so I was very pleased with his work.
When did your passion for cars start originally?
It's funny, 'cause growing up as a kid, I wasn’t a big fan of cars. It wasn’t until I was able to get my own. Every year when a new car came out, it seemed like I wanted that car. So, I always found myself chasing the latest cars once I had the opportunity to buy 'em and afford it financially.
What was your first car?
I got my first car in 2001 after the draft. It was a 2001 Lincoln Navigator and there was nothing you could tell me after I got that. I thought it was the best truck on the market. I did my research and it worked out for me.
And that was the first car that you bought on your own?
Yes, the first car I bought with my own money.
What were you driving before that when you first had your license?
I was driving my mom’s car, which was an ‘87 Buick. I didn’t have a car in college, and once I got drafted, then I was able to go out and buy my car. It felt like it was the best thing that ever happened to me.
And today you own an Infiniti, a Cadillac, a Jaguar, a Lexus, and an Audi?
Yeah, and just recently added the Bentley Flying Spur 2014.
How did you pick those specific cars?
I do my research on them. The first thing I do is test drive them to see if I like them. And the interior can persuade me to buy them as well; the Infiniti has an outstanding interior. The Audi feels like I'm operating a spaceship, and the Bentley Flying Spur is just clean and elegant, something I drive when I take my family out. On top of that, the Jaguar is great. I got a great deal of appreciation for that as well.
A lot of your cars have enormous rims. Is that just the work of Jersey Mike or do you have specific instructions that you give him?
I take all of my cars to Jersey Mike instantly, within three days. Sometimes I have a general idea of what I want the car to look like. Other times he’ll take it and kinda be innovative on his own. I think he’s the best out there and I give him a lot of props for what he does.
Your cars all kind of have a general theme. Is that the result of the culture you grew up in or do you think it reflects anything about yourself?
I always feel like there's something I can do to make them look different but also to make it look normal. You know, I don’t want the car to just always stand out. I want people to notice it, look at it, try to figure out what it is and then go about their business. It's fun to do, man. And I think out of maybe 16 or 17 cars that I’ve tried to make look good, I think the reviews from all my friends are always what I want to hear. I think I’m doing something right.
It was recently in the news that you paid all of your debts, but a lot of people are still skeptical of you having a fleet of vehicles. You said you swap out cars a lot, so are these all just leases?
No, all my cars are paid for. What I do is take the equity that I got in them and I whatever the trade value that I can get and then I add the rest just so I don't have any car payments. I went through bankruptcy and I understand what could lead to that, so I try do everything in a smarter fashion now, a more competent way. Everybody has their own way of doing it.
With the launch of this website, I’ve been poking around with the different news outlets and there are still people that are focusing on the negatives and still referring to everything that's happened in your past. What’s your reaction to the people that are still focusing on something that has nothing to do with cars?
My past is the past, you know, and there’s nothing I can do about that. The only thing I try to do is control what I can control moving forward. To all the people out there who don’t disagree with what I’m doing, I think they should support exactly what I’m trying to do in the community with humane society and other things that I involve my personal time with them. There’s no need to navigate in the past. You got to move forward and live in the future, live in the now.
What exactly are you doing with the humane society these days?
I’m still there for them whenever they need me to host an event. I’ve done numerous speaking engagements for them to support their cause and continue to be an advocate against dog fighting and animal cruelty as a whole. I’m just a partner if they ever need me.
Do you currently own any dogs?
No, not anymore.
How is this next chapter in your life with the cars helping you grow and continue your life?
You always want to continue to build your brand and the things that you work hard for, so this is another stepping stone in building my brand, something I can be a part of. And potentially, I can make a difference in the car world to whatever degree. It's fun and exciting and it’s something where I can be an active man and be deeply involved in.
Interview by Tony Markovich (@T_Marko)