Monday 10 August 2009

Should Michael Vic be given a second chance?

Michael Dwayne "Mike" Vick (born June 26, 1980, in Newport News, Virginia) was a professional American football quarterback. Vick played college football at Virginia Tech, where as a freshman, he placed third in the Heisman Trophy balloting. He left after his sophomore year to enter the National Football League and was drafted first overall by the Atlanta Falcons in the 2001 NFL Draft. In six seasons with the Falcons, he gained wide popularity for his performance on the field, and led the Falcons to the playoffs twice. Vick is known for frequently running the ball, and ranks third among quarterbacks in career rushing yards. In December 2004, he signed a 10-year contract extension with the Falcons worth a potential $130 million. The deal included a $37 million signing bonus. Further, he would make millions more with sponsors.

In April 2007, Vick was implicated in an extensive and unlawful interstate dog fighting ring that operated over a period of five years. According to the 19-page indictment, Vick and his co-defendants were accused of training pit bulls and organizing prize fights in which dogs that weren't up to snuff were killed, sometimes by hanging or electrocution. Various other methods were used to kill dogs that fought or tested poorly, aside from hanging and electrocution. The methods included, drowning, shooting, and in at least one case, slamming the dog to the ground until it died.

The indictment alleges that the Vic and his cohorts engaged in other disturbing practices and that a raid on a home in Virginia uncovered items like ‘breaking sticks’ -- used for prying fighting dogs' jaws apart -- and a ‘rape stand’ used to tie down aggressive female dogs for breeding.

Vic paid $34,000 for the home in June 2001, several weeks after the Falcons drafted him. Fifty-four American pit bull terriers were found on the property during the April 25, 2007 raid on the Smithfield, Virginia, home formerly owned by Vic. Soon after, he and his cohorts began buying and training pit bulls for a fighting and breeding outfit called "Bad Newz Kennels. Vick put up the money for Bad Newz Kennels and funded fight wagers.

This is not the first time the highest-paid player in the NFL has been presented in a negative light.

He was accused of transmitting genital herpes to a woman and using the alias Ron Mexico so he could get treated secretly for the ailment. He earned the ire of his hometown fans after flipping them his third finger after a Falcons loss. He was criticized for missing a chance to speak on Capitol Hill about after-school programs. And earlier in 2007, authorities investigated Vick after confiscating a water bottle with a secret compartment containing a substance that Miami airport authorities said looked and smelled like marijuana.

Vic was convicted and sentenced to prison for his dog fighting venture. Further, he lost millions of dollars that he might have otherwise earned had he not indulged in promoting dog fighting on his property.

He was later released after serving 23 months in prison. He then applied for reinstatement with the National Football League. His request was granted. He is allowed to participate in practices and preseason games but not play in regular-season contests. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said he will re-evaluate Vick’s situation and may give him full reinstatement by October 19th 2009, six weeks into the coming NFL season if any of the football teams are willing to accept him into their teams. At the time of this writing, none of them have offered him a role as a football player with their teams.

Some people will say that Vic should be allowed to resume the life that he led as a pro football player before he was arrested. The purpose of rehabilitation is to get those that have slipped outside of the norms of society back into the norms of society functioning as a productive member of society. Many believe that those who have been in prison or jail for something they did that was wrong and understand that what they did was wrong and have shown that they have changed their ways and will not follow those bad paths anymore, should be given a second chance. I agree with that last statement.

Some will say that fairness allows society's laws to be used to punish those that commit crimes and rehabilitate those that have served their time and for this reason, there is no reason to punish a man who promotes dog fighting the same way you would punish a murder.

Vick’s actions were horrifying; no one denies this. But should his former crime to which he was convicted keep him from pursuing work as a professional football player, provided he can find a team that wants him? According to Goodell, Vic served his time in prison and shouldn’t be punished any longer.

Unfortunately, Goodell has missed an important aspect of professional sports, something that various teams who have refused to bring Vic into their teams have not missed; the purpose of being a role model. Professional athletes being the demigods they are, there is always the “role model” issue.

The law says that he is entitled to walk free. But that doesn't mean it is acceptable to put him in the position in which children will look up to him as a role model and wear any new football jersey that bears his number.

He may be an excellent football player but as a role model that children can look up to, he is a dismal failure and will always be a dismal failure. There are somethings that people can forgive and forget but deliberate cruelty to animals in order to make money from that cruelty is something that is neither forgivable or forgettable.

He is not the only football player who is a failure at being an appropriate role model for kids. Washington Redskins players Clinton Portis and Chris Samuels defended Michael Vick after Vic’s arrest by ridiculing the notion that dog fighting is considered a crime. Cruelty to animals for cruelty’s sake is a crime.

I am in favour in giving ex-cons a break if they show that they are truly repentant for what they did that put them in prison in the first place. However, some crimes are so serious, it is difficult to forget them or forgive the criminals that committed them. For example, would anyone hire an ex-con to work in a day care centre who was convicted of child molestation? Would anyone hire an ex-con to work in a suicide help-line who was convicted of murdering his wife?

Now I realize that my readers will say that Vic isn’t applying for a job working in a dog kennel. He is a applying for a job as a football player, therefore why am I comparing apples with oranges? I can answer that question with two words....role model.

In my opinion, any football team that does choose to hire this man to be a player on their team, does not have his position as a role model for kids in mind. What they do have in mind is winning at any cost. To the credit of those football teams that have chosen not to hire Michael Vic to serve on their teams, they have done this because they recognize how important a clean image of a football player must be to the children who watch the game. Many of the kids of today, just as the kids in the past, admire good sports people and they want to be like them. Do any of them really want to be like Michael Vic who permitted the torture of dogs on his property during his dog fighting venture?

UPDATE: The Philadelphia Eagles have decided that winning is more important that role models. They are letting Michael Vic play on their team. He may not get any approval by the fans however. Philadelphia sports fans, it is said, would boo a cancer patient. They threw snowballs at Santa Claus during a game in 1968. They cheered when the Dallas Cowboys' Michael Irvin injured his neck and had to be carried off the field in 1999. They behaved so badly then that a courtroom was set up at old Veterans Stadium to handle the arrests of the belligerent fans.

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