New Human Right: Redemption (The Obama/Michael Vick Bruhaha)
2010 saw its fair share of pro sports related controversy; Lebron James’ decision to leave Cleveland for Miami, the perfect game that wasn’t by Tiger’s pitcher Armando Galarraga (and the umpire that screwed it up), Brette Farve’s sexting scandal and Ben Rothlisberger’s extra curricular activities resulting in not 1, but 2 accusations of rape by college women.
Nevertheless, credit for what is possibly the biggest sports related scandal of the year came courtesy of none other than the President of the United States.
A few weeks ago, Obama made a call to the owner of the Philadelphia Eagles to talk about the comeback of Michael Vick.
In 2007 Vick pled guilty for his part in a horrific dog fighting ring that drown, electrocuted and hanged the losing pitbulls. He served 19 months in prison for his crimes, and lost his contract with the Atlanta Falcons. It was a hard, fast fall from success.
Back in 2001 Michael Vick became the first African American quarterback to be selected first overall in an NFL draft. He was popular for his effective play and twice led the Falcons to the playoffs.
But when he was released from prison in 2009, Atlanta didn’t want anything to do with their former golden boy. It seems no one wanted to be associated with the man now branded a heartless dog killer.
Philly decided to take the gamble signing Vick to a 2 year deal. Through a series of fortunate events, he moved back into starting position by last fall- his game has been nothing short of amazing since then, and everyone seems to have taken notice, including President Obama.
Whether he’s going through career redemption or not, Michael Vick is still hated by many who say his crimes against animals is unforgiveable. His convictions, no matter what he accomplishes on or off the field, will certainly follow him for the rest of his life.
So when Obama called Eagles owner Jeff Lurie, there was a wave of outrage from animal rights activists to political pundits, all condemning the President for his support of Vick’s on-field accomplishments. They accused the President of excusing Vick’s criminal behavior.
What has been lost in the convenience of outrage was why Obama made the call in the first place. According to Lurie, Obama pointed out that ex-offenders are rarely given a second chance when they re-enter society. He’s right, of course. The stigma of a criminal record is hard, even impossible to shake. Without a team willing to step out on a ledge, Michael Vick’s career was over. Everyone had written him off.
According to a Washington Post article:
“Vick’s emergence as one of the league’s top players – and a most-valuable-player candidate – has revived debate about whether he should be so enthusiastically embraced less than two years after he left prison.”
If now is too soon, when? When do we as a society forgive those who have paid for their crimes- as Michael Vick did- and allow them to move on from their mistakes?
Don’t get me wrong, I think what he did was awful, and I’m against animal cruelty in any form, but I’m also against human cruelty towards each other. Somehow we seem to think that because Michael Vick has a criminal record, that’s license to deny him the right to move on and to be a better person than he was before.
Separate yourself from what you think may be your moral high ground on this specific incident. Think about yourself. Think about your biggest screw up in life and then ask yourself, honestly, would you want your potential to end there?
We really should be better towards each other, but as President Obama pointed out in that controversial phone call, we aren’t.