Vick's return in land of second chances

As soon as you put down this article, you can go online to the National Football League's online shop, and with a little digging through the menus you can create your very own ""Vick"" Philadelphia Eagles jersey for your dog.


In bad taste? Yeah.

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Most hilariously and painfully ironic gift of this holiday season? Definitely.


But regardless of where you stand on Michael Vick's reinstatement into the NFL (or use of said reinstatement for awkward merchandising), the issue has raised a number of interesting questions about the rights and privileges allotted to felons who have served their time and lawfully repaid their debt to society.


In Vick's case, it seems his ability to regain what he had lost, monetarily speaking, will be hindered only by his ability to throw passes for the Eagles. Once Vick manages to pay off the debts associated with his filing of Chapter 11 bankruptcy, he will continue to sign contracts for millions of dollars and become as filthy rich as he was before he got arrested for financially backing dog fighting operations.


However, this did not go without some resistance.


The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, in a public statement released Aug. 13th, called out Vick as ""(fitting) the established profile for anti-social personality disorder … commonly referred to as ‘psychopaths.'"" According to the Los Angeles Times blog titled ""LA Unleashed,"" Aug. 14, an interviewed Eagles fan reported crying when finding out that Vick had been signed to the Philadelphia team, complaining that they were now forced to hate the Eagles and without a team to root for.


While both Michael Vick being crazy and Philadelphia dog lovers' new personal moral crisis are among the Top 10 pressing issues that plague American society, I don't see what any of that has to do with Vick's eligibility to play professional football.


The rights of felons to successfully re-enter society is an issue that has been defended time and time again within the U.S. court system, as a reflection of the romantic and appealing sentiment that America is a ""land of second chances.""


For example, as of 2007 only two states in the union have not ratified laws concerning felon disenfranchisement. In other words, 48 states have made it legal for felons to vote once they have served their time, on the basis that someone who has repaid their debt to society should be allowed all the rights and privileges they held before being convicted of breaking the law.


There are, obviously, some caveats to these precedents.


Sex offenders, most notably, are restricted to where they can live and work in proximity to children and schools, in response to high recidivism rates for those offenders.


Obviously, there's a line somewhere to limit a felon's ability to resume life as normal pending his release from prison. However, that bright line has historically been drawn in order to prevent that felon from committing that crime again, as well as to protect those who might be in danger from that repeat offender.


If you strip away the excessive status and glorification of being a professional sports player, it becomes just another job. And if it's just another job, then there was no legal justification to bar Vick from getting his job back.


The only argument that might fly in that regard is that Vick's ability to make millions of dollars might support his ability to bankroll more dog fights, but if we're going to go down that road, then every other celebrity convicted of a crime is going to have to give up on making movies, albums, publicity appearances and whatever else it is that Paris Hilton does for money.


That means Robert Downey Jr. won't be able to make any more movies, and I'd rather risk Vick funding more dogfights than sacrifice how awesome ""Iron Man 2"" is going to be.


So, does Michael Vick ""deserve"" to play professional football? That's a silly question based on decades of making heroes out of people who are more athletically gifted than the average person, and the byproduct vilification of the sports franchise seeking to improve their business model by hiring him.


A better question to ask is if Michael Vick deserves to achieve the success and status

he once had after legally repaying his debt

to society.


I say yes, based less on any interest in football or strong belief that Michael Vick is at all a decent human being, and more on a decade or two of being told that I live in a country where people are afforded rewards and second chances through their persistence and efforts.



— Remy Albillar is a junior majoring in English. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.


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