Is Michael Vick worthy of a second chance at an NFL career? Yes. NFL teams are constantly signing players with criminal backgrounds and continue to do so.
Vick, former Atlanta Falcons quarterback, was indicted in 2007 on a federal conspiracy charge for his role in a dog-fighting ring. He was recently released after serving 23 months of jail time and is currently looking for employment.
The NFL, as well as other professional leagues, have a history of employing players who have had legal issues, including wife and girlfriend beaters, unlicensed gun-toters and chronic drunk drivers.
Leonard Little, St. Louis Rams defensive end, killed a woman in 1998 while driving drunk. Sixteen months later, he was playing in a Super
Bowl. It would not be his last DUI charge, either. Six years later, in 2004, Little was arrested again for drunk driving and speeding. Little is still in the league.
Recent examples of NFL players in legal trouble involve former New York Giants receiver Plaxico Burress and Cleveland Browns receiver Donte Stallworth.
The New York Giants continued to keep Burress employed after a 2008 domestic violence disturbance involving his wife. Records show Tiffany Burress called police on June 2, 2008 following what she said was an argument with her husband. When officers arrived, she claimed he had grabbed her.
No charges were filed, but the judge granted Tiffany Burress a temporary restraining order against her husband.
The Giants and Burress finally parted ways after he was charged with two counts of felony second-degree criminal possession of a weapon after accidentally shooting himself in the leg in a club last November.
Three months after the Burress debacle, the Giants signed free agents Rocky Bernard and Michael Boley to deals totaling $41 million. Just a few weeks apart in the Spring of 2008, both players were arrested for domestic violence. Bernard was accused of punching his ex-girlfriend. The NFL suspended him for the first game of last season.
Boley was arrested for domestic battery outside Atlanta after he was accused of assaulting his wife. He was suspended for the first game of this coming season.
Then there is the case of currently employed Browns receiver Donte Stallworth.
Stallworth struck 59-year-old Mario Reyes on March 14 while driving his 2005 Bentley in Miami. His blood alcohol level was 0.126 percent, which is more than the Florida legal limit.
DUI manslaughter is a second-degree felony in the state of Florida and carries a sentence of five to 15 years in jail, with the average for a single death being in the 10-year minimum range.
Stallworth was only sentenced to 30 days in jail. He must also undergo drug and alcohol testing, will have a lifetime driver’s license suspension and must perform 1,000 hours of community service.
In comparison to the Stallworth sentence, Vick received 23 months in jail for dog-fighting charges levied against him. The sentence exceeded the prosecutor’s recommendation of 12 to 18 months. There was nothing “easy” about the jail time Vick served. However, the case seems to be the opposite in Stallworth’s situation.
Simply stated, Stallworth killed a human and Vick allegedly killed dogs. Does the crime fit the punishment? I don’t think so.
Stallworth continues to get paid millions of dollars and will likely suit up for the Browns at some point during the season. Vick lost his fortune, his career and his reputation.
There seems to be no national outcry against Stallworth like there was for Vick. I like dogs as much as the next person does, but where do we draw the line? Is the taking of a human life by an NFL player not worth the amount of media coverage as it was and is for Vick and dog fighting?
I think there needs to be some perspective on exactly what transpired.
From a legal standpoint, Vick deserves a clean slate once he has done his time and is released into society. I think this idea holds true from a moral and ethical standpoint as well.
It was morally wrong to harness a dog-fighting ring, but it is morally right to give a man who has served his debt to society a second chance.
It is not ethical to keep him from pursuing work because of a crime.
Recently, Vick was conditionally reinstated by the NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Vick is allowed to participate in practices and preseason games, but not play in the regular season. Goodell said he will re-evaluate Vick’s situation and may give him full reinstatement by Oct. 19.
Vick will work with the Humane Society of the United States on anti-dog-fighting campaigns in the months to come.
Vick has shown “genuine remorse” for what he did. I think he deserves a second chance from the NFL, its fans and animal lovers alike.