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reform.

August 18, 2009

Vick signed with the Eagles and the people are torn. Obviously, I don’t follow sports on any level. I only briefly heard about Vick and his dog fighting scandal when it happened. I probably read a headline or two. And I’ve only read very brief amounts about it now. I have no idea how good he is as a player. And to be honest, I don’t really care.

But what’s interesting to me is how many people really seem to believe in second chances. I won’t rule out second chances in every single case. But in general, I’m not a big fan. (this is sounding a bit terrible; so let’s be clear, I’m not a terrible person) However, I’m going to stick to my Vick example just to keep things simpler.

Hands down, he did terrible things. I think it would be hard to find someone (other than psychopaths) who wouldn’t agree that electrocuting, hanging, drowning, and slamming dogs til they’re dead is awful, or horrifying. I don’t care if he grew up in a culture where this activity was somewhat accepted. It doesn’t make it right. He gets caught, admits guilt, and goes to prison in addition to being suspended indefinitely from playing in the NFL. Now he’s back, and so many people say he deserves his second chance. Why?

He made a decision that was morally bad and illegal. He made a decision that normal people wouldn’t even think was an option. I can’t imagine that prison would reform him enough that it actually changes the character and thought process behind those decisions. And with his second chance coming so easy, with so much support, with so much press, and a huge paycheck, what happens if he needs a third chance? Or a fourth? When do you draw the line and say it’s not really an accident anymore?

And moreover, if he wasn’t an NFL player, would he deserve that second chance? If your neighbor ran sketchy illegal operations and was inclined to acts of violence, wouldn’t you be wary of him? Wouldn’t you keep your children far away from him? And then, if he went to prison, and moved back in, would you really think, “well now he’s reformed; he could be a role model for my kids”? Given the NFL is such a public and wealthy professional organization, shouldn’t they have higher standards? Or because Vick’s actions were completely unrelated to football, should it not matter at all to the NFL? Discuss.

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13 comments

  1. If they didn’t believe in second changes in the NFL no one would be left to play.


    • Yes, I realize that many NFL players have similar if not worse crimes in their history. And I also realize that at least in Vick’s case, the victims were dogs, not people. But given how people treat normal criminals (sex offenders comes to mind specifically) and how difficult it is for them to come back to any sort of normal life, even after they’ve served their punishment, I think it’s extremely odd that we hold our role models and public figures to a much less strict judgment. It seems more like a marketing ploy on the celebrity/organizations part. Failing celebrity does some crazy illegal act, and all of a sudden she’s front page news again, right?


      • I’m not saying there shouldn’t be social ramifications for crimes, but Micheal Vick completed his legally mandated sentence for the crime he committed. If an organization wants to hire him after that to do something he’s great at, who are we to tell them they can’t? It’s not like Michael Vick was a dog trainer before and he’s getting hired to handle dogs again, he was a football player and he’s getting hired to play football again.

        People treat sexual offenders poorly in situations where they might be around kids, etc. which makes sense. Vick hurt dogs, so just keep him away from dogs, right?


      • I think sex offenders are treated poorly even when the situation doesn’t involve kids because most people don’t understand how anybody could make those choices. Thus, the offender is judged because any one their decisions could be coming from the same crazy part of the mind.

        And if that’s how we judge normal people, why do celebrities get a pass on that judgment? If that’s how the public thinks, then normal criminals who serve their time should have no problems coming back.


      • But he’s not coming back to run a company or be the president or teach, he’s coming back to play football. It’s really just a game for people’s entertainment and a rather brutal one at that. He’s not getting off with no consequence either. There will never be endorsement deals, he will never be well-loved enough to appear in movies like a Dan Marino, he probably won’t make the hall of fame, even if his numbers qualified him for it, and his contract is bound to be a lot less than it would have been. Who knows if he can even still play at the old level? Your average ex-con doesn’t get anywhere near as much of a chance, but your average ex-con doesn’t have the same football skills. Life’s not fair.

        This is an extreme example, but if we didn’t give imprisoned celebrities a chance, then what would have happened to Martin Luther King Jr. or Nelson Mandela? Yeah, that’s so extreme it’s ridiculous, sorry.


      • Hahaha. Sometimes it takes ridiculous examples to make a point.


  2. To me they’re just actions off the field that have nothing to do with how well the man plays on the field. It’s not a second chance at all because he was arrested for something he did off the field, not for what he did during a game. I guess the second chance could be argued in that the owners are taking a risk hiring a guy who could get arrested again at any time, but, really, football is about winning, not manning the team with people of great character.

    The only real argument against that is that children look up to these players are role models. What they might see now is that when you do bad things, you get punished, but then you can still go back to your old life. Depending on your career of choice, this is actually true, but it’s not for everything, so…

    I’m coming from a place where I don’t care what athletes do, so long as they’re not cheating and I don’t care who politicians sleep with, so long as they’re not breaking the law, so take from that what you need.


    • I meant more that it’s a second chance because the NFL suspended Vick when he was convicted. So by letting him play again, they’re giving a second chance because his first chance resulted in suspension.

      And I agree that it shouldn’t matter what anyone is doing with their personal life, until their activities become illegal. But as soon as that line is crossed, it’s a different story. I’m not saying all pro athletes need to be of outstanding moral character. But I think it’s not too much to ask that such a selective organization find people who have at least stayed out of jail (or at least out of jail in the last X years). With the number of people who want to play professional sports, I’m sure there wouldn’t be a shortage.

      I guess the question also comes down to whether or not you think reform actually happens. Obviously not all illegal actions are on the same level. So for the bigger, more serious ones (murder, rape, pedophilia, etc.), does serving a punishment actually reform the character? And if you think yes, then there’s no issue at all. Also, how much should organizations care about character? Pro sport asociations and modeling agencies obviously care about character to a lesser degree than politics. But regular businesses probably care more than the NFL.


      • Let’s be honest though, the NFL suspended Vick because it would look bad not to in the face of some seriously deplorable acts. IMHO, it’s not the NFL’s business to suspend people for their personal lives.

        I’m not saying this is common, but what about the wrongfully convicted? Why should the NFL (or MLB,NBA or NHL, etc.) have a policy that excludes all convicts from playing if there was a chance that the convict was actually innocent? Pro athletes are targeted all the time. Big Ben of the Steelers is under investigation for allegedly raping a woman. I don’t doubt that he could have, but what if he didn’t, but he got the book thrown at him anyway? There’s a serious offense thrown at a man who might have done nothing wrong. He’s probably only good at one real thing, football, so why take his livelihood away from him?

        I’ve always felt that the American spirit is such that you don’t have to be an upstanding person or a likeable person to do anything, you just need to be better at it than others. It also doesn’t matter whether reform does or does not happen. If it doesn’t, he’s back in jail again, but we can’t just assume that he’ll do it again and keep him in jail indefinitely. Perhaps I’m being to idealistic (and a bit of a hypocrite, because I’d never leave a child of mine with a known sex offender), but aren’t we all supposed to be innocent until proven guilty?


      • Agreed that the NFL suspended him because publicly they had to. That also means the public opinion has some weight when the NFL decides to let him play again. And people seem to believe in second chances.

        Yep, wrongfully convicted criminals is a big problem in general, not just for pro athletes. And it definitely ruins lives, which is why we give second chances. Isn’t that the whole deal with registered sex offenders? You could be a registered sex offender because of public urination. Then you’re on the publicly accessible list forever; you could have residency restrictions that could cause you to have to move; and it all could have happened 30 years ago and you’ve never done anything like that since. Also, pretty unfair.

        I’m so torn on this issue. Justice should be so much more black and white… 🙂


      • The public urination example is why we need more gradations in the law. Streaking is not the same as paedophilia and should not have the same ramifications.


      • I think it partially comes to peeking behind the curtain @ Oz – the USA isn’t what we pretend it is. With very few exceptions the rich always get to do things we ‘mere mortals’ can’t. For example, people like Martha Stewart are allowed to ‘turn themselves in’ rather than be arrested ingloriously. Usually CEOs resign they are almost never fired, even if that’s what happened behind closed doors. And if you were convicted of drugs you can’t hold a federal government job, (other than mayor of DC) but you can go play pro-football.


  3. i just would not want to cheer for him. i don’t think there should be a rule excluding him or other players who have shady histories or personal lives, but on a personal level, i don’t want to see him succeed, and I certainly don’t want to be supporting him along the way. Also, I don’t think the NFL is really just about technical ability to play football. Sports are about community pride, and require public support, and if a player does something to make everyone hate him, on or off the field, it doesn’t really inspire pride in your team.



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