Superstar Athletes and Public Perception

Joseph CiracoCorrespondent IMay 22, 2009

RICHMOND, VA - JULY 26:  Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick (C) is escorted by U.S. Marshals, as he arrives at the federal courthouse for his arraignment on July 26, 2007 in Richmond, Virginia. Vick pleaded not guilty Thursday to federal dogfighting charges and was released without bond until a November 26 trial.  (Photo by Haraz N. Ghanbari-Pool/Getty Images)

For every Wayne Gretzky or Roger Federer, the sports world has a Dennis Rodman or a Terrell Owens.  However, every once in a while, the sports world merges with the legal world and produces sensational news that the public can't seem to get enough of. 

The part of this that confuses me is how the public reacts when everything with the legal aspect is completed.

Dany Heatley is a superstar hockey player for the Ottawa Senators. On September 29th, 2003, while driving his Ferrari, Heatley lost control. The crash resulted in the death of Dan Synder. 

Synder wasn't just a teammate, but his best friend. Heatley pleaded to second-degree vehicular homicide and received three years probation. After extensive rehabilitation for the injuries he suffered, Heatley returned to hockey and continues to be a top offensive player in the NHL.

Ray Lewis is the face of the Baltimore Ravens, but eight years ago, he was charged with murder and aggravated assault for his part in the January 31st, 2000 murders of two men in Atlanta following a Superbowl party. 

Lewis eventually pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge of obstruction of justice and testified against the two other men in connection with the deaths.

Kobe Bryant is one of the most famous basketball players today and is currently trying to lead the Lakers towards another NBA title. However, on July 1st, 2003, Bryant was accused of rape by a young woman in Colorado.  Before the case could go to trial, both sides reached a settlement.

Michael Vick was the star QB for the Atlanta Falcons and considered one of the most dynamic players in the NFL. Unfortunately for Vick, his world came crashing down when he was identified as a major player in a dog fighting ring. A few months later, Vick pleaded guilty and receive 23 months in jail.

These are four cases of superstar athletes being accused of involvement in heinous acts. Ironically, Michael Vick is the one superstar that seems to be receiving the least amount of forgiveness considering his crimes don't involve another human being.

What does that say about society in general?  Sure, Vick's criminal acts are the most recent, but have you seen a recent Lakers game or the Ravens playoff games this past year?  Bryant and Lewis are back in the good graces of fans even though they could be guilty of two of the ugliest crimes we punish people for.

Michael Vick is no saint.  He lied to the public, Arthur Blank and Roger Goodell.  He threw away tens of millions of dollars and is now about to start a construction job for roughly $10 an hour. 

Vick is about to enter the public domain and try and show people that he isn't the heartless monster that a lot of people perceive him as.

How long will Michael Vick be in the "doghouse" of sports fans across the country? Are his crimes somewhat less heinous because the terrible acts only involved dogs and not human beings? 

As a dog lover, I find his actions to be despicable, but how can we consider it worse than what the other three athletes were accused? 

As a Steelers fan, I'm fairly certain that Mr. Rooney would never sign Vick and that's something that I respect.  However, Vick deserves a second chance down the road, when he shows the remorse that fits the crimes he committed. 

I guess we'll find out who takes the chance on a talented but troubled QB in the months to come.