After two seasons away from the game, the prodigal son, a convicted felon, returns to the gridiron, chastened but wiser, and now ready to lead some NFL team to the Super Bowl.   Wouldn’t that be a story?  If only it was that simple for Michael Vick.   But rather than a story of redemption and second chances, Vick’s possible comeback may prove to be as much about public intolerance and public relations as anything else.  michael-vick-sentanced

On Monday NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell conditionally reinstated Michael Vick saying,  “I accept that you are sincere when you say that you want to, and will, turn your life around, and that you intend to be a positive role model for others.”

Goodell also said that Vick could participate in training camp and play in at least the last two preseason games.  The commissioner indicated that if all goes well then Michael Vick could get to play in regular season games by week six or earlier.

In a statement released by his agent, Vick, who completed his prison term a week ago said, “I would like to express my sincere gratitude and appreciation to Commissioner Goodell for allowing me to be readmitted to the National Football League. I fully understand that playing football in the NFL is a privilege, not a right, and I am truly thankful for the opportunity I have been given.  As you can imagine, the last two years have given me time to revaluate my life, mature as an individual and fully understand the terrible mistakes I made in the past and what type of life I must lead moving forward.“

While I’m sure that Vick was disappointed in not being granted an unconditional chance to play immediately, at this point he has to take what he can get from the commissioner and be as publicly gracious as possible.  What else can he say?

Although I don’t believe that this was the fairest decision the commissioner could have handed down, it was most certainly a calculated one.  It was largely based on the perception of the public mood, and the potential negative impact that allowing Michael Vick to play would have on the image of the vaunted National Football League.   This meant that Goodell had to carefully calibrate his words and actions to mitigate whatever PR damage the NFL might incur.

As for Michael Vick, this sad episode has literally cost him tens of millions of dollars, two years in prison and an unprecedented public flogging.   It was as high a cost as an athlete has ever paid for misdeeds.

How will all of this play out?  The commissioner’s ruling in the Vick case was just the first act.  The curtain is already rising on the second act as NFL teams which may be interested will try to justify a decision to sign Vick, or lacking a sound PR reply, be forced to state publicly that they have no interest.    If the decisions these men are about to make  were purely about football ability, Michael Vick would have a long line of teams willing to give him another chance.   As it stands now, it may be tough for Vick to find any team for which to play.

What I believe we’ve learned from the Michael Vick saga is that dog fighting and animal cruelty now rank at the very top of the transgressions that can be committed by a famous athlete.  We now also know that far too many people have very little capacity for compassion and forgiveness.   And those who can make decisions about Vick will be forced to capitulate to the public mood and the possible loss of sponsors and revenue.

I, for one, believe enough is enough.  Michael Vick doesn’t need to say or do anything more to prove himself to me.  But I fear that sincere apologies, a prison term and lost millions will still not be enough for the self-righteous who care little about second chances.

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  1. David–I think this is a brave call. While I agree with you, it still sits hard. I have to keep reminding myself that my own kids are about Vick’s age. I would want them to have a second chance. If Vick wants a professional career, he may have to openly appeal to sports fans with “….if I were your son, what more should I do in order to be ‘good enough’to play again?”I am sure you could write his speech.

    The other interesting aspect is whether this is going to set up a QB problem in DC. Dan Snyder wants a franchise quarterback. Signing Vick will not cost draft choices and probably will be below market value, maybe with incentives to earn a bigger paycheck. Would Dan take such a PR risk? He sold a communications firm for a billion dollars, so you would think he was savvy about these types of problems. Further, public relations types, like you and me, are inexpensive compared to football players and we don’t count against the salary cap. Interested to see this unfold, Steven

  2. Will Michael Vick Really Get a Second Chance? why not…everybody deserves a second chance