Countless reports have flooded the Internet today that the NFL will conditionally reinstate Michael Vick.
Before I get into analysis, let me get my biases out of the way:
1) I am a passionate Baltimore Ravens fan.
2) I have supported Ray Lewis is his return to the playing field after his murder trial.
3) I own a dog I love as much as I love any person (family and family-in-law-to-be not included!)
4) I am not a vegetarian, nor am I am avid animal rights supporter (not that I don’t support the cause, but I don’t give up my Saturdays to picket)
So there is where I am coming from.
Now let’s get to where I am going.
Michael Vick, not to long ago, was a premier NFL superstar. He led the Atlanta Falcons to the postseason. He dazzled on the field, combining arm strength and running acumen to apparently become a prototype for the new generation of quarterbacks. He starred in countless commercials, banking at the endorsement pay window.
After being convicted of various charges stemming from bankrolling an illegal dog fighting operation, including killing numerous dogs, he served his debt to society, splitting his time between jail and prohibitive house arrest. This past week, he officially finished his sentence and was released from the legal system (albeit with probation).
He applied for reinstatement to the NFL, so he could resume his once-promising career. His “boss,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, will apparently allow him back in the league, with some conditions, such as a minimum 4 game suspension. The exact details should be released soon, but the bottom line is that if he signs with a team, he’s back in.
I am not going to discuss the PR nightmare that would go along with any team willing to sign him.
I want to discuss whether the league should have let him back in.
In two words: Sadly, yes.
The major issue here is not that Vick should be prohibited from resuming his career. The issue is that his chosen career carries a six-figure minimum salary. Even if he sits on the sideline all year long, he will earn more than the average American.
Let’s just say he found work as a nighttime custodian, an honest line of work. I don’t think anyone would have any problems with him taking that job. In that career, he would work hard for his pay, and see every day what he cost himself.
However, he’s an NFL player.
Playing in the NFL is not a “right.” It is a merit-based league. If you can play better than other people, you should be in the league, just like any other career. If you continue to play better, you’ll get a raise, just like any other career. It just so happens that his job plays out in front of nearly 100,000 fans in attendance and millions watching across several broadcast and cable networks each week. A team will sign him and he most likely will play this year.
At the end of the day, even though he was convicted of his crimes, he served his sentence and deserves the chance to make a living. I don’t like that he can go from prison to the penthouse so quickly, but that is his legal right and I will defend that right to the fullest.
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