Michael Vick and the Politics of Second Chances

michael vickThe Monday night football game this week was a lesson in life and redemption. I only saw the first half, but that was enough. I got so excited about the performance of Philadelphia Eagles Quarterback, Michael Vick, I shelved my intended column topic for this week and started over.

On the day that the Washington Redskins gave his mentor and now opponent, Donovan McNabb, a $78 million dollar five-year contract extension, Vick — the NFL top-rated quarterback — threw three touchdowns and ran for two more as the Eagles scored 28 points in the first quarter and 45 points in the first half. There was only one quarterback on the field that night that looked like he was worth $78 million. And it wasn’t McNabb.

That is the irony of the politics of redemption. Second chance success stories in our society are few and far between. People choose to forget who you are and remember what you did, instead of forgetting what you did and remembering who you are. Michael Vick may never be able to get people to forget what he did, but he is making people remember who he is…he’s still Michael Vick, a player so talented that it made him the highest paid player in the game. He’s using his second chance to show it.

Condemned animal abuser, convicted felon, bankrupt debtor, and person people love to hate, Michael Vick’s fall from grace wasn’t kind. His climb to respectability has been slow and humbling, at times, even humiliating. But he’s picked himself up, dusted himself off, pulled his chin up, and made it back to the National Football League.

In a society that is often too quick to throw people away once they’ve made a mistake, we rarely see the redemption side of the “throwaway.” Only the rehashing of the events that led to it. People remember that Michael Vick was jailed for bankrolling dog fighting operations for almost two years. They forget he was the league’s highest paid player before it happened.

Michael Vick signed the league’s most lucrative contract, $130 million over 10 years in 2004. Most of that contract was voided when he was convicted in 2007. He now plays for near the league minimum, a paltry $5.2 million , after he was signed by the Eagles in 2009 to a two-year contract worth $8 million .

He was still Michael Vick when he signed the contract, but they paid him less because he was considered “damage goods.” That’s how they do people they think nobody wants to hire, no matter how talented. The only damage to Vick was in the eyes of society, even after he had paid his debt to society.

Michael Vick is a perfect example of how an ex-convicted person is discriminated against — paid less — exploited just because they can. He’ll earn another $3 million in performance incentives over these two years, which he most surely will collect, but it’s not the $10-14 million a year he was earning on the field a few years ago. He lost just as much in endorsement deals. But he showed he hasn’t lost a step on the field. Only his compensation has suffered serious injury. Not for an injury on the field, but for a mistake off the field.

Other athletes have made much worse “judgment” mistakes than Michael Vick; Kobe Bryant, Tiger Woods and Ben Rothlesburger just to name a few. Vick’s assaults were on the dignity of pit bulls, the most disdained domestic animal in our society. The others were assaults on the dignity of people, and none of them have gone to jail, none of them had their primary contracts voided, and all they suffered were some endorsement damages. But at the end of the day, Kobe was Kobe on the court, Tiger is still Tiger on the course, and “Big Ben,” like Vick, is showing he’s still who he was before his suspension. All of their reputations in repair, none of them have to overcome the “ex-convict” hurdle.

The only thing that can make that go away is a pardon, which is not likely—at least for a while. Michael Vick will just have to endure it and endured it he has. Nobody has been willing to give Vick his props besides his coach who recognized that he was just too good to sit down, and few even offered him a second chance. Many think that the politics of Vick’s conviction had more to do with the money he made than the crime he committed. It’s just one of those things we all know shouldn’t have happened the way it happened. But it did and few come back from hits like this.

Anthony SamadThat’s what makes it so good to watch Michael Vick’s comeback. Bad times don’t last always, and at the end of the bad times…a player is still a player and the cream rises to the top. Michael Vick is making the best of his second chance and that’s a great thing for the thousands of second chancers waiting for people to stop talking about them and thousands more waiting for the chance to prove themselves again. Neither will happen, so second chancers just have to make the best of it.

It’s great watching commentators and sports pundits eat their words. For all the haters and doubters, guess what? Michael Vick is still Michael Vick, the best player in the game. You can’t take that away from him…even though they tried. The politics of second chances has one true reality…if given the chance, those with skill and talent will show it and succeed.

Anthony Asadullah Samad

Published by the LA Progressive on November 20, 2010
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About Anthony Asadullah Samad

Dr. Anthony Asadullah Samad is an author, scholar and the co-founder, Managing Director and host of the Urban Issues Forum. Dr. Samad's most recent book is entitled "Saving The Race: Empowerment Through Wisdom". His national column can be read in newspapers and cyber-sites nationwide. His weekly writings can be read at www.blackcommentator.com. For more information about Dr. Samad, go to www.AnthonySamad.com.

Comments

  1. Sorry, I can’t feel any compassion for this man. The “dignity” of the pit bulls was the least that they suffered, and for several years bankrolled by Vick. Cruelty is cruelty, pure and simple, and is only encouraged by naming it anything else.

  2. What Michael Vick did to those animals was pure evil. That the author of this article seems to be defending Michael Vick and what he did because he is the “best” football player of all time is disgusting. You cares that he is a good football player.
    He is not sorry for what he has done, he is only sorry that he got caught and lost all of his money.
    Mr. Samad you seem to have forgotton the pictures of those poor dogs, the blood, the electrocution, the drowning etc. It seems that you think it is okay because they were pit bulls. They didn’t ask to fight and have all of the those horrible things done to them. I have met some of Michael Vicks dogs and they sweet and innocent.
    Michael Vick is a disgusting individual and if he would do those things to dogs, I wonder what he would do to people.
    Your article is offensive!
    If Michael Vick was truly sorry it would be one thing, but he is an arrogant, self serving and unrepentant individual who happens to play football really well.

  3. While some people do deserve a second chance, I don’t believe Michael Vick deserves one. What he was involved in was so cruel and callous toward living beings, I dont really believe that he is being honest about his redemption. What he did to those animals didnt faze him in the least and his only regret is that he and his cronies got caught. Any money he does make should be donated right away to animal rights organizations. Even though he is working with the HSUS, I dont feel his compassion is honest.

    • Still crying a river! If I was Michael, I would love to get this type of hate from people, it only makes you stronger in the end.

      Just last year people was saying he was evil and he would never be a good QB, and look at him now, the best QB in the league! Only in America where you can be the highest paid player in the NFL, loose it all while serving jail time, come back and become the most exciting player in the NFL.

      If you think the nuts are going crazy now, wait until he gets his team to the Super Bowl and become the highest player once again. Keep up the good work Mike and remember….Only God can judge us when we die!

  4. Great article! It seems like there is some light from above on him when he’s out on the field. Things just seem to go his way, or in his favor and it’s unbelievable to watch.

    The more hate he gets the more successful he seem to be on the field as well as off the field. I think we may be witnessing something that is bigger than Mike himself. I think it’s a massage to all those who think they have everything and then have iy swept away like a thief in the night.

    I’ve learned alot from his situation and don’t even know him. If he comes out and plays like a video game for the second consecutive prime time game I will be convinced that this could be shaping up to be the biggest comeback in sports history! Just 32 hours to go….

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