False Redemption and the Michael Vick Fallacy

Michael Vick was once a star quarterback for NFL’s Atlanta Falcons. Then it was discovered that he was secretly in the illegal dog-fighting business, breaking the law and being brutally cruel to dogs in the process. This lost him his job, his contract, his freedom, and many millions of dollars. Now he’s a star quarterback again, leading the Philadelphia Eagles. Last Monday night, he had what some have called the best game any quarterback has had in the NFL in forty years. Many are celebrating his return to stardom as an inspiring example of rehabilitation and redemption. After all, he’s a hero again.

Not to me, he isn’t.

It well may be that Michael Vick is a changed man, but the jury is out on that; it’s just taking longer to get a verdict than it did for his dog-fighting charges. There is absolutely no nexus between Vick’s resurgence on the football field and his character. We know not one smidgen more about the extent to which he has changed, if at all, because he has a terrific yards-per pass average. Would anyone be talking about Vick’s redemption if he was stinking up the stadium. throwing interceptions left and right?  Why not? Do animal torturers make worse football players than reformed, “All God’s creatures are to be respected and treasured” ex-dog fighters? Clearly not: Vick was still pretty good at the game back when he was secretly hanging and electrocuting his “pets.”

The degree to which fans and the press allow on-field performance to mitigate off field atrocities is remarkable. Vikings quaterback Bret Favre is a pariah now, because he sexually harassed a reporter and can’t play very well any more.  But to my knowledge, he never tortured a pitbull. I’d still rather shake his hand than Michael Vick’s.

I know Vick has “paid his debt to society.” So did Nathan Leopold. I wouldn’t have trusted Leopold with my son, just as I wouldn’t trust Michael Vick with my dog. Leopold was brilliant; Vick can really throw a football. Neither ability tells me anything about their character or whether they deserved or deserve trust and forgiveness. Vick has done charity work and public penance: meaningless. They were the only way for him to have any chance at more million dollar paydays. He could be killing puppies in his dreams, and he would do the exact same thing, which was probably charted out and written down in advance by an image consultant. This isn’t sacrifice, and we have no way of knowing whether it is true contrition, because it is so, so profitable. If Michael Vick had voluntarily forsworn athletic celebrity and professional sports to devote his life to rescuing and caring for abused dogs, that would have convinced me. That would be a true story of redemption. Vick’s current story is about a guy who was able to shake off the rust after a prison term, and showed he can still play. A sports comeback, nothing more.

Vick says the right things, but something is off. After his triumph last weekend, he tweeted, “God can turn mistakes into miracles!” Years spent mistreating innocent animals, slaughtering the ones that displease you, and sending them into a ring to tear each other apart for your entertainment isn’t a “mistake.” It isn’t a miscalculation, a bad career move, a blunder or an “Oopsie!” either: it is  intentional and depraved conduct that cannot be undone with a prison term or football heroics.

Vick’s success essentially gets him back to the point in his life where he was before the dog-fighting, except, of course, that he now isn’t just Michael Vick, football star, but Michael Vick, football star and proven animal abuser. I’ll wait and see where he goes from here before I accept his redemption, and I don’t mean how many touchdowns he throws.

11 thoughts on “False Redemption and the Michael Vick Fallacy

  1. Thanks for this post, Jack. It shouldn’t amaze me what people will forgive for money or sport, but it disturbs me that Vick makes millions of dollars and animal rescue groups are generally made up of volunteers and good-hearted donors.

  2. Sad.

    For some people, no matter what you do, you will still be a criminal.

    I could spend a few paragraphs on the whys and hows and causes and effects and compare and contrasts. But, that would be a waste of time.

    Suffice it to say, that in my opinion, ethics starts with the golden rule.
    If it was you. And you had paid your debt to society. And took a hit in terms of being able to make a living by pursuing your craft. And realized that you disappointed lots of people you knew, and did not know. And you did your best to make a comeback—as a person and in your profession. After all that, wouldn’t YOU appreciate the benefit of the doubt?

    I don’t think Michael Vick has anything to prove. I am going to assume he is what he says he is. Or, perhaps more to the point, is what he says he has become until his actions prove otherwise… After all, it’s what I would appreciate others assuming of me if I was in the same position.

    • Gyasi (I’ve missed you, by the way!),
      I think that’s a misapplication of the Golden Rule. If I were Michael Vick and still fighting dogs secretly, I’d also want everyone to believe I was reformed.
      The right Golden Rule application: “I, Michael Vick, want people to judge my character based on what I do off the field, over the long course of my life, not what I do on it.” That’s fair. Right now, I have no data. Do you? Sure he has something to prove, just as sex offenders, convicted and released white collar criminals and cheating spouses have something to prove. If I have to choose whether to trust someone, and mu choice is someone who tortured animals for profit and someone who didn’t…guess which one I pick?

    • Gyasi,

      What I don’t get is all the “Hype” he’s getting about being an “Inspirational Story”. I believe he did his time and I forgive him, I will never forget. So when I look at an inspirational story, he is definitely not the first person who I look at, maybe a story like Tillman or others that take there situation and make it into an inspirational story. I want to know just one thing he did that proves he was morally changed as a person? If I were in prison and truly remorseful for something I had done, I would try my all to convince the person/persons who were affected by giving my all (yes, if I had millions I would find a way to give a little something other than my mouth because I was asked to). When that happens, maybe I might change my outlook on who he is as a person and not another spoiled athlete/actor who gets gold handed on a silver platter before they enter the prison and right when they get out. Instead of being at a club where there were guns, etc. having a good ole time but still hanging out with the wrong crowd – in your words, “No matter what you do, you will still be a criminal….. hmmm, I wonder why? Doesn’t seem to changed to me, just another greedy famous person back to what they know best and no more. So, when you ask us what we would do if we were in his situation, my first words would be WWJD – What Would Jesus Do? I don’t think he would be at a club hanging with thugs with guns! I might want to take a different path through God’s eyes and stay away from the stuff that got me there in the first place, afterall, he is a changed person right?

  3. vick would not “impress” me by handing money over to the care or welfare of animals. no amount of money will help all the ones he has torured and maimed and killed. he needs to never be allowed to earn money again EVER. if he has kids, they should get any money he may earn. but he shouldn’t be allowed to earn it doing something he likes to do. I hope he has nightmares every time he closes his eyes; I hope his kids grow up to know what he has done and loathe him for it; and I hope the devil has already prepared that special place for him in hell. Vick has not repented. He is only sorry that he had the stupidity and misfortune of getting caught. Someone needs to do to him all the things he did to those poor defenseless dogs. He must have felt like one heluva man, doing that kind of stuff to those animals. Wonder if he ever tried putting battery cables on his own……NO, PROBABLY NOT. Or ever took a “whoopin” with a tow chain, or got dragged behind a truck for not winning a fight? NAW….I DOUBT IT. Who knows? Maybe someday Vick will be called the loser, and some mean old Mr. Man won’t be so happy. See….we’re not ALWAYS on the “winning side”. And…we’re not ALWAYS the BIGGEST ON THE PLAYGROUND either!!
    I think my WORST fear is that Vick will be permitted to be around another dog, or even children. Who would trust him? May God lay guilt so heavy on you that you can’t even sleep at night. You are a nasty piece of slime.

    • Now don’t mince words. Just come out and say how you really feel.
      Well, yeah, you can’t undo what is done—I think that’s an excessive standard for forgiveness. You seem to want to put redmption, contrition and forgiveness off the table, no matter what the man does. That’s just vengeful and merciless. I can understand one of Vick’s surviving pitbulls feeling this way, but human beings are supposed to be able to get past anger and retribution at some point. Based on your comment, you don’t believe that point exists. That’s sad.
      Also scary.

  4. the sad thing about the pitbulls is: they NEVER were permitted to have a reaction to show disfavor to what Michael Vicks did or had done to them. No, I don’t have any compassion for human beings who do things like this. This was not a MISTAKE. This was out and out, over and over CRUELTY,…….MONEY-GRUBBING CRUELTY,….to a living being that had no way of protecting itself or escaping the situation. The Higher Power I answer to says that I must have forgiveness in my heart to gain entrance thru the Pearly Gates. Hopefully, by the time I stand there trying to get in, I will have learned how to offer that forgiveness. See, I admit that I too am not without sin. Yep. My words sound harsh. But the dogs that were tortured didn’t get to have any words at all. I guess I just think that’s the price Vicks should have to pay for what he’s done…….hearing over and over again what we animal rights advocates have to say, in “representation” of the pitbulls Vicks had no feeling for. Maybe we who stand up for these animals don’t use all the fancy words and sport terms in reference to this case. But….Vicks is still JUST a guy who did a very bad thing. If it were my brother, I’d turn him in too, so I don’t let celebrity or “good game”, or MUCH influence me. I couldn’t forgive MYSELF for doing the things that Vicks did to those dogs. See, I’m not just tough on OTHERS. Oh….I don’t think it’s sad, or scary, the way I put my feelings out there on behalf of the dogs. They didn’t get a vote. One more thing I’ll “share” with you, then I’m finished on this subject. A few months ago, my friend, who rescues abused and homeless animals (including pitbulls), called me to say that one of her pitbulls was dying. He was a bit old, but not ancient. He had been “rescued”. He had scars and chunks torn out of him from his “fighting” days. But he was a good, loving, and yes, “forgiving” old dog. He just lay down this day, and wanted to go to sleep. He finally had a say in the way his day was going to go….And so it did. I’ve seen many abuse dogs in my day; so no, forgiveness for Vicks won’t come easy. But I’ll try….if for no other reason, so I myself will be forgiven. Thanks for pointing that out though.

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