Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Michael Vick: Rehabilated?

Yesterday NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced that Michael Vick is free to re-join the NFL but will not be able to play, potentially, until week 6. In Goodell’s letter to Vick, Goodell wrote, “I accept that you are sincere when you say that you want to, and will, turn your life around, and that you intend to be a positive role model for others. I am prepared to offer you that opportunity. Whether you succeed is entirely in your hands. Needless to say, your margin for error is extremely limited. I urge you to take full advantage of the resources available to support you and to dedicate yourself to rebuilding your life and your career. If you do this, the NFL will support you.”

Vick, who spent 18 months in prison for running a dog fighting ring, is free to sign with any team that will have him. In a statement released by Vick’s agent, Joel Segal wrote, “I would like to express my sincere gratitude and appreciation to Commissioner Goodell for allowing me to be readmitted to the National Football League. I fully understand that playing football in the NFL is a privilege, not a right, and I am truly thankful for the opportunity I have been given.” While Vick is correct that playing in the NFL is not a right, I do not understand where it is a privilege. Granted his words were chosen carefully to appease Goodell and other detractors.

Playing in the NFL is not a privilege either nor is playing professionally in any sport. One gains access to the profession level in their sport by dedication and hard work. Granted some players, i.e. Brian Griese and Chris Simms, get their chance to play because of their namesake but the vast majority of players in the NFL are there because of their talents. By saying it’s a privilege equates to saying ability and talent is a privilege as well. If that is the case then we diminish all the hard work and dedication young men and women put in to achieve their goals and aspirations.

While Vick does face an uphill battle, it may have more to do with the change in the role of the quarterback than with his abilities and past. The era of running quarterbacks is in its twilight. A different role may be more apt for Vick as the running back in the “Wildcat” offense. Last year the Baltimore Ravens used Troy Smith, at times, in the “Wildcat” offense of scheme. Teams that use the “Wildcat” offense may enlist Vick’s skills more so than teams that do not.

Our prison system is established to rehabilitate those that are incarcerated within. That being said, the assumption is that Vick has learned from his past transgressions and is set to move forward by becoming a model citizen. Unfortunately Vick’s actions and the organization that signs him will be put under a microscope by the media and groups within greater society.

The only way for Vick to prove he is rehabilitated and reflected on the circumstances that landed him in prison will only gain clarity as time progresses. Vick can volunteer for PETA or the Animal Humane Society and put out public announcements on the evils of dog fighting but will it be enough to display how effective his time in prison was? No, it will be through actions, private actions, which will be the ultimate factor to give teeth to his words.

Vick needs to do his part in society as well society needs to do their part. Society needs to forgive, not forget, Vick for his past transgressions in order to move forward. By forgiving, a basic Christian tenet, Vick society assists in the healing process. Based on Vick’s words he has learned and it is time for society to give him that opportunity. The question now is which team will take the chance on Vick and the media frenzy that is sure to follow.