As Fans, Should We Let Vick Back In?
As far as the NFL is officially concerned, Michael Vick is allowed to resume his career as a professional football player. Roger Goodell has set the terms including a suspension and the assignment of a mentor (Tony Dungy). Teams are free to contact him, evaluate him, and ultimately sign him.
But as a fan—as a society—should we let Michael Vick back in? Should we support a franchise's decision to bring him into camp, or should we protest it?
Professional athletes are role models for our children and they are idolized in our society (justifiably or not). Do we want someone who has engaged in dog fighting, or any other serious criminal activity, to achieve such status?
But we can't forget: we live in a free and capitalist country. If an organization decides to invest in someone, and there is no restrictions placed on that person, it is free to do so. This is both under the NFL's terms and in terms of US law.
From Vick's perspective, "professional football player" is the only thing Vick has on his resume, so telling him he free to the pursuit of happiness and then telling him he is not, however, free to play professional football, would be a contradiction. We simply don't have a right to prevent him from playing football to earn a paycheck.
The NFL has this power—within it's closed-circuit socialist regime—by blacklisting him, but there are other professional football leagues (CFL, UFL) where he can make a living (albeit he won't make as much).
Losing Vick to another league isn't in the best interest of the NFL, and even with the special status sports leagues are given to rule over their constituents, it's gray whether the NFL would be violating Vick's constitutional rights by banning him after he had paid back his debt to society.
What it really comes down to is how NFL franchises forecast the local and national public reaction to a Vick signing but some organization is going to play the Guinea pig with this one.
In some places it will play better than others, but certainly the more teams show interest in Vick the more comfortable we'll all get with the idea. So time is in Vick's corner right now.
And what then? Do we turn our backs on a franchise we've supported all of our lives? Or do we stomach the national scorn that will persist for at least a couple of seasons, maybe longer—especially if he wins?
How would the average fan react?
If history serves us, this will not be a really big story in 2010 either way, and teams know that. Ultimately, we'll get used to the idea and this will lose it's relevance.
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