Archive: Removing The Chains: Michael Vick Returns

Anthony DiPieroContributor IFebruary 14, 2010

PHILADELPHIA - DECEMBER 20:  Michael Vick #7 of the Philadelphia Eagles rushes against the San Francisco 49ers at Lincoln Financial Field on December 20, 2009 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Nick Laham/Getty Images

The following is an article I wrote for my school newspaper back in September of 2009. The issue on giving sports characters a second chance is still strong in today's world. This article discusses Michael Vick, and why I feel his return was/is important. It is of note to see looking back how his season developed and his character changed. I also decided to post this because of the recent philosophy of giving players another shot, most notably the Cincinnati Bengals and their workout with Adam "Pacman" Jones.

The “ringleader” of recent dog fighting scandals is back in the National Football League, and his return brings controversy and questions. Michael Vick, former star and team leader of the Atlanta Falcons, is back in the spotlight after signing a two year contract with the Philadelphia Eagles this past August. The media has voiced public opinion, demanding answers as to why a killer could be freed and return to a life where “everything will be back to normal.” The answer is quite simple: Everyone deserves a second chance.

First off, let me start by stating that I DO NOT condone any sort of fighting for sport. Whether it is cock fighting or dog fighting, to treat animals in such a cruel way is immoral and unethical. The federal punishment, the Animal fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act, signed by former President George W. Bush on May 3, 2007, outlines the laws and regulations. Any one charged with the crime will receive a penalty of up to three years in federal prison, along with a $250,000 fine for each offense (Humane Society).

Here is a brief timeline of the events regarding the disgraced football player. On November 20, 2007, Vick admitted himself into a Virginia prison. Officially on Dec. 10, 2007 he was sentenced to twenty-three months in federal prison. From November 2007 until May 20, 2009, his time was spent in a jail located in Kansas. He was released from all charges on July 20, 2009, two years to the day. In today’s world, most celebrities and sport icons receive minimal sentences for their wrong doing because of their status. Two years in federal confinement, with no special treatment, is no luxury. Like any average citizen, Vick spent the time for his crime, following all standards and procedures given to him. The status of his career did not help while in court. In fact, it hurt.

On July 7, 2008, Michael Vick’s attorney’s filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. After all of the court proceedings, fines and debts paid to loaners and banks, the estate is up to 10-15 million dollars in debt (CBS Sports). He does not have his millions that were earned from his salary, investments, and endorsements anymore. The contract signed with the Philadelphia Eagles on Aug. 14, for a possible total of $6.8 million dollars in salary, is a small, small fraction of what he owes to the public and to the government (ESPN). He is clearly not making the same amount of money he earned while with the Falcons from 2001-2007 (signing a ten-year contract in 2005 massing to a total of $130 million) (FindArticles).

This is clear. When Michael Vick re-entered the league, he was rewarded for his skill, not his actions. Throughout practices and the preseason, his playing ability has been on par with others around him. The Philadelphia Eagles went out on a limb signing him, essentially taking his “baggage.” The return for his ability outweighed the risk of taking him, as viewed by the Eagles. The NFL seems to be a firm believer in giving people another shot at working things out, as evident in last year’s reinstatement of Pacman Jones to the Dallas Cowboys. Roger Goodell, league commissioner, said this about the Eagles quarterback: “"I think he's making real progress…I think he has a better feel for the challenges ahead of him…He understands he has very little margin for error, that people are watching him." (Sports Illustrated).

Like any business, the NFL strives to make money in the most efficient manner. Bringing in a big-name player, along with his controversy, creates interest, which, in turn, brings in profit. In fact, Jersey sales for Vick totaled 6,140 with the week ending Aug. 30, the most of any active player (Boston Herald).

Everyone deserves a second chance. Yes, again, what he did was wrong. Admitting to this by saying, “"I should have (taken) the initiative to stop it all. . . . I didn't -- I didn't step up.   I wasn't a leader" (NBC Sports) is a small step in his recovery, but it is progress. My opinion may differ from yours, but think. Would you want a second chance if you were in the same situation? He paid the time for his crime. He knows what he did was wrong. After all, as former President George W. Bush said, “America is the land of the second chance - and when the gates of the prison open, the path ahead should lead to a better life.