Michael Vick Will Play Football Again, Like It Or Not

Stephen SmithContributor IJune 14, 2009

RICHMOND, VA - AUGUST 27:  Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick (R) leaves federal court August 27, 2007 in Richmond, Viriginia. Vick pleaded guilty to a federal dogfighting charge.  (Photo by Steve Helber-Pool/Getty Images)

Finally out of prison and back home in Virginia, disgraced former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick probably went to work this morning like so many of us do every day.


Working at a construction site—though most likely in a manner similar to the way Vito Spatafore and the rest of the guys did on "The Sopranos"—is a long way from being the supposed evolutionary link in the maturation of the NFL quarterback.


But, that’s where Vick’s choices landed him.


However, the thought that those choices should prevent Vick from possibly earning a living as an NFL quarterback is flat-out wrong and runs contrary to our propensity to forgive professional athletes for their various transgressions.


NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will obviously have his say before allowing Vick to step back on the field.


But, his employees always keep his disciplinary plate full with fresh charges of illegal drug use and distribution, aggravated assault, public mayhem, drunk and disorderly, vehicular manslaughter, spousal abuse, and so on and so on.


Yet, up until now, forgiveness was always just one big play away.


The bottom line is that Vick already paid his debt to society and shouldn’t be looked upon any more contemptuously than any other athlete—and there’s a long list, by the way—who’s run afoul of the law.   


And while the burgeoning professional athletes’ criminal blotter certainly doesn’t minimize Vick’s cruelty to animals, it does make me wonder why we don’t seem to have the same compassion for our fellow human beings as we do for animals.


So, if you don’t want to have any compassion for Vick, then don’t.


But don’t tell me it’s because of a crime he’s already done his penance for, because if you do, then you’re engaging in the useless exercise of trying distinguish between shades of gray.


I’m neither a Vick-supporter nor an animal-hater, but the bottom line is that we must punish equally (even in the court of public opinion), or not at all.


It’s a lot less confusing that way.