Baseball isn’t the only sport having problems dealing with employee character issues. Football has its share of problems that need addressing this off-season as well. One in particular is of great concern as it has the attention of everyone – not just football fans.
It was less than two years ago that Atlanta Falcons’ superstar quarterback Michael Vick was sentenced to 23-month prison sentence after pleading guilty for funding and operating a dogfighting arena.
It wasn’t more than two years ago that dog lovers across this nation were calling for the maximum punishment for Vick. Picket signs and protests surrounded the courtroom. The man, who was once the face of football, scarred his name and defaced the game along with it. He went from fan favorite to public enemy number one.
Vick has served nearly 22 months of his sentence that ends June 20. He will be released to spend the remainder of his sentence under home confinement starting May 20. As his release date creeps closer, a tough decision is weighing in the back of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s mind.
It’s serious. The NFL has a reputation to uphold in society, but it also has a responsibility to do what is fair for the player. And no matter what decision Goodell makes, it is guaranteed to be the wrong one.
During a panel discussion at Washington and Lee University, Goodell said that Vick would have to show “genuine remorse” for what he has done in order to return to the NFL.
So, say Goodell can discern “genuine remorse” and does decide that he will reinstate Vick. What then? A daily mob in front of the arena that he plays in every Sunday, Monday, Thursday, Saturday (how many days a week do they play again?)?
In the eyes of some people, nothing he ever does will ever be good enough. He could wear a PETA shirt everywhere he goes. He could walk around with a chihuahua, dressed in its favorite outfit. He could be Paul after Saul and people will still see the persecutor.
In an interview with Fox Sports, retired defensive lineman Michael Strahan said that Vick “could go out and do some of the greatest things mankind has ever seen and I still don’t know if it would be good enough for people not to protest his getting a job in the NFL.”
This is the issue that Goodell is confronted with this summer. What should he do?
Vick is just 28 years old. He is a young man. Young men make mistakes don’t they?
He’s young enough to make a mistake, but old enough to realize how immature and ridiculous that mistake was. He’s immature enough to not realize exactly what he was doing at the time, yet mature enough to reflect and realize how disgusting it was. He’s weak enough to be influenced by the wrong people, but strong enough to realize that he needs to disassociate himself from that crowd and to live up to better standards.
Add onto that a couple years in prison and I think he’s got the point. Now it’s just a matter of seeing if people really can change.
It seems he’s taking the right steps. More importantly, he’s taking the right steps in the peripheral of the public (which is commendable, since being out of sight is nearly impossible these days).
It was reported earlier this week that former NFL coach Tony Dungy, who retired to dedicate his life to prison ministry, met with Vick.
Dungy explained his heart for prisoners in an interview with Tampa Tribune reporter Martin Fenelly.
“When you talk to prisoners, you talk about what’s important, what you draw your identity from. We’re obsessed with winning, and here are guys who most people think aren’t winners. Our tendency is to say, ‘if you’re not a winner, you’re nothing.’ I want to tell guys you can be something.”
No word has come out yet to the nature of their meeting, but it’s safe to say it was a conversation about life after prison, about rebuilding his life and finding his purpose.
This meeting with Dungy can only make the decision easier for the commissioner.
What should Goodell do?
Reinstate Vick and let him play. Let him make a statement. Let him be the great comeback story that only he can be. Let him be an inspiration for others who are sitting at rock bottom, looking for a way out.
Clinton McGue is a journalism senior and a Mustang Daily sports reporter.