05/21/09 — OPINION - Michael Vick deserves second chance

View Archive

OPINION - Michael Vick deserves second chance

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on May 21, 2009 1:46 PM

We live in a nation that loves underdogs, relishes the comeback story and awards second chances.

We love our heroes and we're notorious for turning a cold shoulder to the misdeeds of our icons off the field.

Former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick was released from Fort Leavenworth (Kan.) prison on Wednesday after serving 23 months on dogfighting charges. He has been placed on house arrest and confined to his Virginia home.

Once released from custody, Vick will work as a general laborer for a construction company beginning July 20.

As sports fans, to retain a sense of consistency. We owe Vick the same second chance we've so willingly obliged to Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson, Ray Lewis and Josh Hamilton.

Labeled "the greatest basketball player of all time," Jordan had a well-documented gambling problem for years. MJ has reportedly played golf with upwards of close to a million dollars at stake on numerous occasions. The North Carolina native was also supposedly spotted in an Atlantic City casino in the wee hours of the morning before Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals in 1993.

Rumors reported of Jordan's infidelity and the $250,000 he supposedly paid former mistress Karla Knafel as "hush money."

Then there is Bryant, the NBA's most valuable player a year ago. His jersey has been a record-setting item, probably more squeaky clean by his wearers than his own image.

In 2003, Bryant admitted to having "consensual sex" with a 19-year-old Colorado hotel employee. The act was initially believed to be rape before the case was ultimately settled out of court.

Johnson, a five-time NBA champion with the L.A. Lakers and three-time league MVP, admitted to sleeping with numerous women. He retired for a third and final time in 1996 after being diagnosed with HIV several years earlier.

Lewis, the Baltimore Ravens linebacker and former Super Bowl champion, was indicted for murder and aggravated assault along with two companions following a fight in January of 2000 in Atlanta. Lewis later pled guilty to a misdemeanor obstruction of justice charge and received a year of probation and a fine.

Hamilton, a former standout at Athens Drive High School in Raleigh, has a storied past that was plagued by drug use. Through an unwavering faith in God and the support of his family, Hamilton has been clean since October of 2005.

The acts Vick was convicted of were heinous, despicable and he deserved to go to prison for what he did. However, if the man who was once the NFL's highest-paid player can prove he's truly remorseful, he deserves a second chance.

The common bond linking Vick to all of the aforementioned athletes is their ability to succeed in their respective sports. Our country has historically given athletes with off-field struggles a free pass as long as they continue to produce championships, MVP's and tape-measure homers.

Bryant and Lewis can show up at a children's hospital or spend a day at a charity function and we forget they're human, too.

The reality is we all find ways to screw up each and every day. We preach forgiveness and the power of an apology to our children, and then expect our athletes to be flawless or at least winners.

A newly learned lesson can only prove to be so valuable without the opportunity to demonstrate what one has learned. Michael Vick deserves his opportunity.