Early this week, news broke of Michael Vick's reinstatement with the NFL. He can play ball immediately, although the initial terms stipulate that he must sit out the first six games of the season. In justifying the reinstatement, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell cited Vick's remorse and his work with the Humane Society of the United States. Yet many have pointed out that at his most recent trial, on state charges in April, Vick pled not guilty to animal cruelty even while entering guilty plea on the charge of dogfighting. Is it possible to be remorseful for something for which you still avoid taking responsibility? And, while Vick and HSUS do, indeed, have an agreement to work together, that work, so far, has been limited to press releases promoting their partnership.
There has been speculation, going back to last spring, that Vick might make a "great" addition to the New Orleans Saints. On Tuesday afternoon, Saints player Lance Moore told WWL-TV that he would love to have Vick join the team. "He'd bring a whole other dimension to this team that we don't really have," he said. "I think he's more than paid his debt to society," Moore continued. "He's done everything that's been asked of him and I would assume you are not going to see any problems. I'm sure the damage that it has done to him mentally is plenty for him to have learned his lesson." Elsewhere, one online report even sketched out a scenario of how to reintroduce Vick to New Orleans, with a joint press conference featuring the Louisiana SPCA.
Certainly Vick deserves a shot to return to society and earn a living; but does that mean that he is fit to serve among the elite of the NFL, among athletes who are regarded as role models to millions? Some argue that denying him the game is robbing him of his livelihood; others say that he can find a job doing something else. Yet what is often missing from this debate is a careful look at the actual facts of the case: one still hears the words "alleged dogfighter" or comparisons to hunting. Vick was involved in an illegal dogfighting operation that included gambling; he and his cohorts admitted to killing dogs that didn't perform; among the methods used to kill the dogs, they electrocuted some by attaching car batteries to their live bodies; these electrocutions were performed at the bottom of an empty pool, where it was possible, months later, to see the claw marks made as the dogs frantically tried to escape; during the investigation, Vick lied to law enforcement, to federal agents, and to his employers and teammates; and, in April of this year, while still serving time in a federal prison, he pled not guilty on state charges of animal cruelty.
Of course, the Saints and the NFL can choose to do what they feel is appropriate, and already they have heard from many fans and players who feel Vick should return. But wouldn't it be something if the teams actually took a vocal stand against dogfighting and animal cruelty this season? If you want to make sure they know how you feel, here are some helpful contacts:
New Orleans Saints:
New Orleans Saints
5800 Airline Drive
Metairie, LA 70003