Ponder these words for a minute: rehabilitate, redeem, remorse, incarceration, guilty, exile, forgiveness.

They are a jumble of powerful words that are not always properly understood and are sometimes used incorrectly.  I think of those words and several others, when I consider the eventual freedom of a famous prisoner now behind bars in Leavenworth, Kansas.   I wonder how we will interpret and use those words when this man is set free.  michael-vick-guilty1

28 year-old Michael Vick, a federal prisoner, who was once the highest paid player in the National Football League, will be going home in less than two weeks.   Vick will be released into home confinement for the remaining eight weeks of his prison term.   Ironically, the end of Vick’s sentence will neatly coincide with the start of NFL training camps.

The end of July traditionally marks the beginning of a new season for most NFL players. It could mean a fresh start for Vick who would like to resume his football career after missing two seasons.   But it could also mark the beginning of the coldest reception ever received by an athlete.

Sadly, many athletes have been in trouble.  And some, like Vick, have spent time in prison.  Several have even been connected to crimes where people have died.  Yet a number of them went on to successfully compete and star again.  But none of them I believe at any point faced the utter contempt and widespread anger that has been directed at Michael Vick.

There is no disputing that Vick’s crimes were horrendous.   Vick’s greatest burden will likely be that he will forever be known as a man who not only ran a dog-fighting operation, but was extremely cruel to the dogs he owned.   In some cases the evidence indicates that he apparently participated in the torture and killing of dogs that did not perform well in fights.

Still, I am uncomfortable with how all of this is playing out.  I am troubled by the vitriol that has been heaped on Vick. The response feels wildly out of proportion to the crimes he committed, considering what we have tolerated from other athletes who have also committed criminal acts.

For his crimes, as terrible as they were, Vick pled guilty and will soon have served his time.  I always thought that in this country a man once released has a right to return to society and try to reclaim his life.

How should NFL teams, the commissioner, fellow players, and fans deal with a free Michael Vick.  The criminal justice system will soon indicate that he has paid his debt.   Is there an additional public debt that Vick must now pay?  And if so, for how long?

So I ask:  What is enough? What more do we want from Vick?

Public opinion will play a huge role in what happens to Michael Vick in the future.   There are many people who say they are prepared to protest and even boycott any team that dares to sign Michael Vick to a contract should he be reinstated to play again.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell says that Vick must show “genuine remorse” and demonstrate that he is a changed man, if he is to be considered for reinstatement.  I ask though, how high is that bar of remorse?

Perhaps we need to look at this through the eyes and heart of Tony Dungy, one of the most respected and honorable men in the history of professional football.  In what was only described as a private meeting, the former NFL coach met this week with Michael Vick behind the prison bars at Leavenworth, Kansas.

Dungy’s meeting with Vick was extremely important.  Dungy is not just a football coach, he has considerable experience talking with and counseling prisoners.    His prison outreach ministry is one of the reason’s the Super Bowl winning coach decided to retire from the NFL after last season.  The god-fearing Dungy believes in both discipline and redemption.

I hope that one day Dungy will share his thoughts about the imprisoned quarterback.   What Dungy saw and and heard from Michael Vick should go a long way toward shaping how we understand Vick. It may be that only a man like Tony Dungy can lend the much needed perspective to bring common sense, understanding and closure to our feelings about Michael Vick.

I believe how we receive and accept the former Atlanta quarterback upon his release from prison will say more about us, as people, than it may ever say about Michael Vick, the convicted felon.

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  1. Mike Evers says:

    It is not just about Michael Vick. I am pretty sure the NFL contracts contain a clause that forbids conduct which reflects poorly on the league. In a world where how a person treats his dog is more relevant than how he treats people, the league has a stake in protecting its reputation.

  2. beverly hunt says:

    eloquently said.

  3. Nicole W says:

    Does Michael Vick Deserve a second chance?
    Watch this preview for VICKtory to the Underdog



    “Vicktory To The Underdog” takes an in depth look at world renowned tattoo artist “Brandon Bond” and his dog rescue efforts – particularly rescuing the infamous Michael Vick fighting dogs.
    Rather than focusing on the dog fighting problem, the movie sheds light on solutions leading to “Vicktory” for all the underdogs in the movie – tattoo people, pitbulls, parolees and all the other people in this world that society has turned their back on through ignorance and racism.
    The movie also examines the life of Brandon Bond and his struggle with balancing fame, fortune and the Rock-N-Roll tattoo lifestyle with a more fulfilling life that focuses on the betterment of both animals and society as a whole.
    Featuring celebrities like Debbie and Danny Trejo, Michael Berryman, Pixie Acia and Donal Logue, the movie takes you on an incredible journey you will never forget!

    Proceeds for this film will be going to Villa Lobos Pitbull Rescue. http://www.vrcpitbull.com

  4. Karen B. says:

    Thought provoking article…

  5. JC says:

    Michael Vick is still young enough to learn a new profession but i strongly feel he should not be given another chance in the NFL. He would not set a good example and if something else were to happen it would tarnish the reputation of the NFL.
    It is time for him to move on with his life and set a new example, that he and everyone can be proud of.

  6. Jim says:

    There are times when forgiveness can be shown and there are some times when a line was crossed and there is no going back. The loss of trust and honor in a relationship as a result of infidelity is an example. When that happens the relationship is over.
    Vick crossed a line with the abuse of animals that can never be forgiven. That act showed the soul of a cold and cruel individual that goes to his essence. This would be similar to someone who sexually and physically abuses children. That person is evil to the core.
    Vick is sorry….sorry he got caught.

  7. diana carro says:

    The cruelty vick showed, not only fighting dogs, but the torture of pulling teeth, beatings, and abuse is unforgivable. A person who does this has no remorse and no feelings for anyone or anything. He is a danger to society and should not be allowed to ever play any sport at all. He is responsible for the decision he made to fight dogs and now should accept and pay for his poor judgement by being a real human and man and pull himself out of football entirely, but since he has no respect for anyone but himself, I can only the NFL will suspend him permantently.

  8. DavidBurnett says:

    Diana, Thank you for reading my blog and thank you for your comments, but I couldn’t disagree more with you. Nothing is unforgivable! And no Michael Vick is not a ‘danger to society’. It sounds like to you no one can rehabilitate, reform or be redeemed. Shame on you. Vick’s actions indeed were terrible, cruelty to animals is terrible and a crime, but Vick has served his time. Criminal time. He now has a right as a citizen of our great country to return to normal life, and earn a living by working at his chosen profession. If he doesn’t earn a spot on an NFL team because he is not good enough – fine. He will then have to find another line of work. The reason I wrote this post was to address sentiments such as yours. The unforgiving heart is the only thing that is unforgivable! Best wishes to you. Please read again. This time we will have to agree to disagree.