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New Human Right: Redemption (The Obama/Michael Vick Bruhaha)

January 4, 2011

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.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. Crystal permalink
    January 4, 2011 12:26 pm

    What bothers me most is the hypocrisy of this Vick outrage. Where is the outrage over the players and coaches who have beat, dragged, choked, and raped women? Where is the outrage over the players who have not only been convicted of driving drunk, but have hurt others in the process? Where is the outrage of players convicted of trying to kill, or actually killing other people?! Most people don’t even care enough to remember these players names and are rooting for them on their home teams, while demonizing Michael Vick.

    Hurting animals is wrong. Period. So is hurting people. I don’t begrudge anyone a second chance who has served their time, in the same way I don’t begrudge anyone their opportunity to abstain from supporting that person. Consequences for crimes are not only legal, but social. But to send the message that we’ll root for a wife beater as long as he doesn’t beat his dog too, is intellectually and morally inconsistent.

  2. eRiC permalink
    January 4, 2011 7:22 pm

    Mike Vick is the Man! Period.

    This dude is proving that it’s never over until YOU say it is. He is illustrating just how to bounce back from adversity.

    What more do the kids need to learn?

  3. C. Eliyah permalink
    January 5, 2011 1:32 am

    Yes, it is hard for former felons to reintegrate into society. As one, I should know. However, no President made any phone calls on my behalf. I think Mr. Obama’s time would be better spent ensuring that prisons are complying with the bill that he signed into law that would retroactively reduce sentencing disparity for those accused of crack possession.

    Vick didn’t do what he did out of addiction, nor out of necessity, nor out of desperation; he did it because torturing these animals made him feel like a powerful man. Perhaps Obama has sympathy on him because he has had to sign too many torture orders for dark prison detainees.

    Nevertheless, the only reason that I agree with your perspective concerning Vick, though your spin and perspective may be different, is that nobody has yet arrested and tried Sarah Palin nor her ilk for killing wolves. Equity is, after all, fairness.

  4. January 5, 2011 4:20 am

    Needing to feel like a powerful man, as you put it, if true, is an addiction all of its own. People do what works for them, after all. All things being equal.

  5. C. Eliyah permalink
    January 5, 2011 10:49 am

    While addicts often do questionable or even horrible things, I would not put electrifying and drowning a sentient creature on par with addiction itself. I’m speaking as a former addict, so I realize that others may have a difference in opinion. Still, you clearly draw a line here that says Vick’s life is more important than any animal’s. I know a lot of people, especially Christians, who feel the same way as you do about animals. However, while I respect your desire for clemency, I respectfully disagree with you about the value of other sentient life. Torture and murder is torture and murder; if he would do this to a dog, a creature which has been a constant and loyal companion to humankind for large portions of our existence on this planet, then what would keep him from doing it to a human, given the opportunity?

  6. January 5, 2011 12:48 pm

    Actually, I clearly do NOT claim that Vick’s life is more important that any other human, or any other living thing. I can’t respond based on things I didn’t write. The other day someone insisted to me that Michael Vick is worse than a rapist. She- yes, she- even attempted to claim that, in her claim, a dog’s life is more important than a humans, than a womans. She said Vick should be put to death (thanks Tucker). We don’t put rapists to death. If we’re going to debate this issue let’s at least be rational. I can honestly tell you I don’t care about Michael Vick. I don’t care about football or the Eagles, and the debate is NOT about the sanctity of a dog’s life. It is about the treatment ALL ex-offenders experience when they leave prison, which was what the president pointed out in his call. I’m not going to debate the value of a dog’s life. As for whether or not Vick would do it again “given the opportunity” *clearly* you do not believe that people can change, and that he is harboring some deep seeded desire to kill dogs, but hasn’t because he hasn’t had a convenient opportunity. That doesn’t float. We don’t condemn people for what they might do. I might slap Sarah Palin. You can’t condemn me or put me in prison because of what I *might* do given an “opportunity”.

  7. January 5, 2011 1:05 pm

    Furthermore, you can’t define addictive behavior within an ideal that you are comfortable with. Addiction is addiction. It’s not about drugs or alcohol. You’re the one who brought it up, and when I challenged it, you changed your assertion. If you want to be right simply for the sake of being right, then that’s fine. But my points stand as valid. Whether we’re talking about Michael Vick or anyone else, we treat ex-cons like crap in society, and we behave as if they have no redeeming qualities. That’s a problem we are all responsible for. The story of Vick and Obama was simply the example I used to bring attention to it. I don’t have to condemn Michael Vick for the rest of his life or mine to prove I respect all living things. That’s just silly, and ironic, actually.

  8. Vick Schmick permalink
    January 5, 2011 1:11 pm

    Someone sent this link to me in an email. The intro lines said “omg Sable Verity is defending Michael Vick for killing those poor dogs!”

    Yeah clearly that’s not what you’re saying here. I have to give you some serious credit for having the fortitude to even write about this issue. It’s too emotional for most folks to be rational- as the comments here prove.

    We treat ex-offenders worse than we treat dogs. So what does that say about us as humans? That we don’t value each other. At all.

    Bravo Sable. Keep it up.

  9. C. Eliyah permalink
    January 6, 2011 11:42 am

    I think we’re talking past each other. I entirely agree with your reasons for writing the article. I just didn’t want to equate this type of crime with the petty crimes that most people are imprisoned for. I believe Vick and all offenders deserve clemency in society. And you already know how I feel about the “worse than rape” comment. There is absolutely no way we can compare the two; rape is a far more serious offense and should be treated as such.

  10. Cammy permalink
    January 11, 2011 12:02 pm

    Nothing was missed. Here is the issue with President Obama’s choice to contact the Eagles’ owner regarding Michael Vick. The outrage against President Obama’s call also isn’t about lacking support for those who have served time. Commending programs and employers that continually help to reintegrate people who have served time is good, but he chose to acknowledge a single high profile instance, of a case that involved repeated cruelty (strangulation/electrocution/drowning), with an organization dedicated to entertainment and income who’s investment in Vick is not for the greater good of humanity, and possibly not for Vick himself, as it is for many of the grassroots organizations and the employers affiliated with them that work with those people leaving prison to reenter society day in and day out. The acknowledgement of one of these organizations would have moved the focus onto the organization and off of the person who committed the crime, as well as offered an opportunity to increase public awareness and possibly financial contribution to an organization or employer that is committed to this work on a continual basis. An individual’s post prison success story is written over a period of years following the incarceration. A time in which their outward self-control and inward character is tested through usual and unusual circumstances as it is for all people. Michael Vick’s is yet to be written. Our President must be a man of discernment and I believe he has erred in this decision.
    What is unsettling about the case itself, is that although time served is an important aspect of any criminal prosecution, in all crimes, especially those involving cruelty, it should be the hope of society to know that the one who committed the crime has learned and feels a deep sense of remorse for the acts themselves and not for the discovery alone, reentering society with a sense of gratitude that a second chance is available and not deserved. Even that is a salve to the sting of the past. A second chance, though, should not be considered comparable to a paycheck. A paycheck is for time worked. A second chance is a gift for the future, not an entitlement earned by time served for an act already committed.

  11. Cammy permalink
    January 12, 2011 12:21 pm

    Thankfully, we don’t have to choose the lesser of two or three or four evils…and we don’t have to rate them. We can abhor all cruelty to all living creatures, be they human or animal, male or female, young or old…etc…etc. The message: cruelty towards any victim for any reason, although inflicted upon one, is a crime against all of society. Whether or not the same outrage has been shown every time it is the appropriate response, we have to celebrate every instance where that righteous outrage rightly appears, because each time cruelty to any victim creates an outrage, it helps re-sensitize us to ‘cruelty’ in general. Too long we have been passive and too long our own identities have been used to divide us into subgroups and then play on our sympathies, to our detriment. Let’s start paying attention! Let’s all practice consistency on the subject of cruelty! Outrageous kindness and righteous outrage!

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