August 18, 2009

Michael Vick and Social Justice, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Make Some Inappropriate Jokes…

E como mai, and welcome back!

To me, that is.

So, a couple of weeks ago, my wife "expressed her displeasure", or hit me over the head with a mop...okay, that's lie, she makes me do the cleaning…ok, that's another lie, she cleans the entire house then glares at me when I make an ill-fated joke about something.  She will bury me one day, just so you know.

But, I digress.  Only slightly, though. The reason I mention my constant beatings at the hands of my wife (just kidding honey, please put down the frying pan...) is because she wondered why I write about sports so much.  Now, I've never meant for this site to be entirely sports-centric, but often times, I fear that I'll come across too partisan on some issues.  Plus, I reallyreallyreallyreallyreally like sports. However, I think I've found a nice, non-controversial way to meld sports and social justice issues in this post.

I fully agree that Michael Vick should be allowed to play in the NFL.

Now, I'm not taking any surprise position, or breaking any news.  Vick has been cleared (as I'm sure you know by know...if not, climb out from under your rock, Rip Van Winkle) to practice, play in the final two preseason NFL games, and could be un-suspend-erized by week 6 of the season.  However, many people, including some trusted friends of mine, find this hard to swallow.  Like a pit-bull-sized vitamin.

I realize that what Vick did was evil, calculated, he lied about it, funded it, participated in the maiming and killing of dogs, and owned something called a " rape-stand."  But the American system is founded on second chances.  A buddy of mine argued that if he were convicted, he would not be able to work for the same company.  And he's correct.  But only in practice.  There is no law saying a convicted felon cannot work.  Will most people hire a felon?  No.  And the NFL allowing Vick to sign with a team is not the same as being employed.  It is only allowing him the opportunity to pursue a career.  Of course, Vick's situation is different than yours and ours, as he is (was) a highly paid professional athlete.  But let's be serious, Ted Kennedy may have killed someone in Chappaquiddick in the 70's, and is still a highly respected Democratic Congressman.  If someone is talented enough, it doesn't typically matter what they do short of mass-murder to dampen their employment prospects.

But this leads me to my final point: if Vick (or average citizen Joe Shmoe III) served his time in federal prison and completed any requirements set forth by his potential employer, why shouldn't he have the right to work?  Prison should function as a rehabilitory system, not a only a holding cell (and by the way, that link was actually real—a program out of Tulane University called "Project Return").  Rehabilitative programs, though underfunded, have been proven to work towards processing inmates back into the larger civilian population.  If we focus on prisons as simply punishment with no opportunity for betterment...which we have mostly done for the last, oh, couple hundred years...then we will see the creation and growth of a violent, prison-based underclass that is unqualified for work outside of prison and pressing license plates.  Oh, wait, that's what we have now...

We must shift our focus away from punishing criminals (although some do desperately need it) and begin working to train and educate those confined in dank cells with little to no nourishment.  Why do so many criminals have an inordinately high recidivism rate, or likelihood of returning to jail?  Because there is a stigma attached to prison time that, while somewhat natural, can and should be eliminated.  Michael Vick has done has time served by the American legal system, and the NFL and PETA do not possess a higher authority although they may seem to think so.  Vick has begun to show he is (at least in public) contrite and remorseful for his foul acts, and we can ask for nothing more.

1 comment:

  1. I also agree that Michael Vick should be allowed to be in the NFL. After all, his crime was not directly related to his occupation but his high pay did allow him to fund his sickening behavior. There is no legal basis to say that he should not be allowed to play football. But, and this is a big BUT...

    Shame on on the Philadelphia Eagles for hiring him. I still believe in the old fashioned addage that football players or any professional athelete (or professional anything) has to mentor and be a role model to younger children and young adults. Ask yourself, would you really want Vick to be a role model for your future child based on his previous track record? Woud he really be a good choice? What message does it send to children at risk, to see him back in the NFL? Could they perhaps be thinking it doesn't matter how you behave or what decisions you make when your are a "football superstar"? Could they possibly be thinking "I can hurt, rape, steal, murder and still get in the NFL", like so many before them?

    The fact that Vick now has a team and is out of prison offers no proof that his heart has changed. Only God knows what is in his heart and hopefully he is really sorry. As for your reference about prison being a place to reform I have this to say: It is both a place of reform and punishment. Programs do not change people's behavior. They only offer wise intellectual counsel, anger management, and point the direction of reform. Change takes place on a much deeper level. If Michael Vick is a changed man we will know soon. I do hope and pray that he is NEVER allowed the opportunity to own a dog or any pet. There is very strong statistical evidence that proves people who are physically cruel to animals are more likely to harm humans.

    Vick has served his time--that is true. Now the question is, did he take the time to change his heart and submit himself to a higher power.