Michael Vick is the Atlanta Falcons quarterback recently indicted by a federal grand jury on criminal charges associated with running an illegal dogfighting and gambling business from some of his property in rural Virginia. Some who were involved in this business have admitted their guilt and testified that not only did Vick know about the business and support it, but he also personally participated in the drownings and electrocutions of dogs that failed to sufficiently impress with their fighting ability. Now it is rumored that Vick is on the verge of pleading guilty and that he could spend several years in prison. People are wondering what should happen to him afterward. If he serves time in prison, should he be allowed to return to professional football after he is released?
Former Green Bay Packer general manager Ron Wolf believes that he should. "Maybe I don't understand something in all of this," he says, "but you're supposed to get a second chance in this country." He goes on to argue the following:
"We've had a lot of people in this league do a lot of bad things, and they still got a chance. Leonard Little killed someone (while drunk driving). Jamal Lewis went to prison (in connection to) selling drugs. Are you telling me that killing eight dogs is worse than killing a human being? … Yes, this is bad, but are you really telling me that he doesn't deserve a chance to play again when other people have committed crimes and come back?"
Some pro football executives apparently agree with Wolfe, but they are said to be in the minority. I do not care much for football at any level, and I know very little about it. However, I love animals and take an extremely dim view of those who abuse them. It sounds to me as though Vick personally abused and destroyed and indirectly participated in the terrible abuse and destruction of many dogs as part of an awful business that profited from horrendous bloodsport and suffering. My emotional reaction to this is, "Fry the jerk, or at least lock him away for as long as possible and never, EVER let him return to football!"
But my more considered response is one motivated by a deep-seated belief in compassion and redemption. I am not sure I agree with Ron Wolf that Vick's apparent crimes were no worse than the others he cited. For instance, it could be argued that, while the life of one human being is worth more than the lives of any number of dogs, inadvertently killing a human being in an automobile accident while driving drunk is, in some ways, not as bad as running a depraved dogfighting business and personally drowning and electrocuting dogs in unspeakably brutal fashion because they aren't vicious enough to kill other dogs in savage bloodsport. I am inclined to make that argument myself.
Nevertheless, depending on the type and length of Vick's sentence, I am not unalterably opposed to him being granted a second chance. But, first, I would like to see him step up and publicly confess to what he did with his business and those dogs, express what appears to be a genuine understanding of the wrongness of it all and genuine contrition for his involvement in this monstrous enterprise, ask the public to forgive him, and actively participate in campaigns for the humane treatment of animals and against animal cruelty.
If he serves his sentence and does all of this, I believe that he deserves a second chance, and I would hope that he would get it.