I was pretty surprised when Mike Vick first signed with the Philadelphia Eagles for a variety of reasons. One of the biggest was that the Eagles had a pretty great quarterback in Donovan McNabb at the time. Certainly chief among the others was the potential headache Vick's baggage could bring along with him seemed like an unnecessary risk for the organization to take.
We all know Vick committed some serious crimes against dogs and was sentenced to years in prison. He served 548 days at Leavenworth for his actions. He's worked pretty hard with the community in Philadelphia area and Virginia since then. Some still don't believe that was enough.
I held my judgment to see how Vick would act both on and off the field in Philadelphia. He may not have ever delivered a Super Bowl on it, but he did put in a lot of commendable work in the community.
A Change.org petition that went live earlier in the week believes Vick still deserves to pay. And that 548 days in prison is a "short sentence." The original petition writer is apparently not alone, with the current signers numbers approaching 12,000 as of this writing.
What is the angle the petition is taking? To plea to the SUNY campus that the New York Jets practice at:
I love SUNY Cortland, and cannot abide welcoming this sociopath onto our campus with open arms. We need to stand by what is right as a university by barring him from the grounds. I don't want him anywhere near my beloved college or community. We MUST send the message that we won't be party to the torture of animals by conveniently forgetting what he has done. If we welcome Vick onto our campus, we are complicit in his crimes.
While I think we can all agree the crimes committed were rather heinous, it's worth noting some of the things Vick has done in the time since serving those 548 days in prison.
Let's take a look at some of the notable moments from the Eagles media guide:
- In 2011, Vick spent a day lobbying to Congress to help pass the Animal Fighting Spectacor Prohibition Act. "Too many kids get involved in dogfighting and it's time to break this cycle," said Vick. "Animal fighting is a dead-end road for young men."
- Team Vick Foundation launched in 2012 with a $200,000 donation towards a football field for a little league team, the North Philadelphia Aztecs, as part of the Hunting Park Revitalization Project.
So why are we defending Michael Vick for his crimes here? We're not defending the crimes. We're just moving on and believing that Vick has the intentions to do good moving forward and perhaps even help curtail dogfighting in the future.
The Humane Society of the United States seems to deal with these sorts of backlash responses all the time, and even address the Vick situation specifically. I think their thoughts are worth ending on:
He served his time in prison, he admitted his wrongdoing, and his regret, and he determined to make amends. His work in reaching out to important audiences now buttresses that of the leading anti-dogfighting group in the nation in its broad efforts to attack the problem.
So sign your petitions if you want. Michael Vick and his detractors are no longer the problem of the Philadelphia Eagles. That said, I hope Vick continues to work to give back to the community and make up for the mistakes he's made in the past. I believe he will. I at least believe he deserves a chance to do so.