James Leroy Wilson's blog

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Does Michael Vick deserve a second chance?

The "Michael Vick - Will He or Will He Not Be Reinstated" question has a few interesting elements. I wrote about Vick's predicament twice in 2007 (1, 2).

As those columns indicate, I do not view societal revulsion as a proper rationale for imprisoning Vick.

The question is, should he be reinstated by the NFL?

Let's submit first that no one has the "right" to work in the NFL, or anywhere else. In that sense, Vick doesn't "deserve" to be in the NFL.

But didn't I just say he shouldn't have been imprisoned? Isn't it only fair that the NFL takes him back?

Not necessarily. The NFL seeks audiences and revenues. It has a reputation to protect, as all sports leagues do. Imagine if a white NFL player is caught on video in a drunken, Mel Gibson-like tirade against African-Americans.

If I'm the GM of this player's team, I'd cut him immediately.

Recall that Sean Avery was suspended by the NHL, and released by his team, for derogatory sexual references about women.

This is where the Vick situation falls. It's not that he committed a "crime," it's that his behavior was revolting and disturbing to the public. If the NFL fears public backlash from animal rights groups or sponsors, and if team owners fear backlash from fans and media for signing Vick, it is appropriate for the NFL to keep him suspended indefinitely. And if he's not suspended, it is easy to see why few if any teams would want to sign Vick anyway.

Vick didn't deserve to go to jail. But he certainly doesn't "deserve" to be in the NFL. If he's a liability on the business end of the NFL, he's just not worth it.

Athletes, and other citizens, can exercise their First Amendment Rights to express their opinions and still get fired from their jobs. It seems to me that, likewise, outrageous activities like dogfighting can remain legal, but the "outing" of its participants would cause them to lose their jobs.

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