Is it OK to cheer for Michael Vick?

[deleted account] ( 17 moms have responded )

(CNN) -- Michael Vick, the comeback story like no other -- the nation's largest ongoing rehabilitation project not named Sheen -- makes his postseason splash Sunday night.

A bigger audience means more fans than ever face this question: Can I embrace the Philadelphia quarterback's singular talents without getting the blood of past sins on me?

It's been more than 19 months since Vick's release from federal prison in Leavenworth, Kansas, on his dogfighting conviction. And still the debate over his crime and his place back at the forefront of the NFL achieves spectacular extremes. Within two days in late December, the president of the United States congratulated Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie for giving Vick a second chance while a Fox News analyst suggested that Vick should have been executed for his crime.

But this process of redemption also works itself out quietly, modestly, one oil change at a time.

A Nissan dealer in Woodbury, New Jersey, has a played a small role in reintroducing Vick to the segment of society that doesn't kill dogs for sport. Thomas McMenamin, executive manager of the dealership, was the first businessman to sign the ex-con QB to an endorsement deal.

Before the feds started digging around Vick's Bad Newz Kennels in Virginia, he was the hottest property in the league, making a reported $7 million a year in endorsements. Afterward, he was an untouchable. Now, for a series of promotional appearances and one television spot, he reportedly is receiving the free use of a $50,000 Nissan Armada.

"When we first met, he wasn't ashamed to admit that he did wrong and was wrong," McMenamin said.

Would you buy a car from Michael Vick?

McMenamin said the response has been mostly positive. "We have gotten some phone calls from people saying, 'We'll never buy a car from you again,' but a lot of those came from out of town, from people who wouldn't buy here anyway."

To help ease the expected criticism, the dealership struck a promotional arrangement in which it would donate to the local humane society for every car sold until the end of January. McMenamin estimates the total should amount to $10,000.

One episode last month struck the manager as telling. A customer came to him irate over how long it had taken the service department to perform a simple oil change. He left dramatically, vowing never to return.

The next day, McMenamin's phone rang. It was the same disaffected customer. He had seen the Vick commercial that night. "You gave Michael Vick a second chance, and I'm willing to give your store a second chance" are the words McMenamin remembers.

Sport has always had its gamblers and rogues, its cheats and addicts. In one Super Bowl night in Atlanta, Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis became part of a double murder case (he eventually pleaded to misdemeanor obstruction of justice). The following year, 2001, he was the Super Bowl MVP.

There'd be none of the usual failings for Vick, though. Like his skill set of speed, elusiveness and arm strength, his downfall had to be so out of the norm as to challenge belief. He'd bankroll a dog fighting ring.

The cruelty of Vick's crime was spelled out in unsettling detail in the indictment against him, in passages such as:

"In or about April 2007 (Purnell) Peace, (Quanis) Phillips and Vick executed approximately eight dogs that did not perform well in "testing" sessions by various methods including hanging, drowning and slamming at least one dog's body to the ground."

And the price he paid for his crime was steep: 23 months in prison, three years probation, bankruptcy and great heapings of public scorn.

But fans love a good comeback story, and they are quick to grant forgiveness to those who lead them back to the top of the standings. Now, with Vick, they are being asked to process an entirely foreign kind of crime along with a startling kind of ability. It's like trying to read a Greek tragedy -- in Greek.

After serving as a backup with the Eagles in 2009, Vick took over the starting role early this season. The team had shed its longtime marquee quarterback, Donovan McNabb, with plans of plugging in Kevin Kolb as his successor. But Kolb suffered a concussion, and Vick rediscovered his Vickness.

At 30, he appeared to be a star at peak brightness. Against Washington in November, he put on such a show -- passing for four touchdowns and rushing for two others -- that the Hall of Fame requested his jersey.

He threw for more than 300 yards three times in a month. (During six seasons in Atlanta, he had done that only twice.) Throwing for a career-high 21 touchdowns, with only six interceptions, he was 8-3 as an Eagles starter and led them to a division title.

On Sunday, versus Green Bay, Vick returns to the site of his last playoff appearance, this time leading the home team at Philadelphia's Lincoln Financial Field. It has been seven eventful years since he last played the postseason. And that was a largely forgettable performance, the Atlanta Falcons losing in the 2003 NFC championship by 17 and their quarterback rendered practically invisible.

He enters this game with an injured leg, and his last start, a loss to Minnesota, was his least productive of the season.

But it's so much more than the numbers with Vick; it's how he amasses them. Dan Reeves, Vick's first coach in Atlanta and an unabashed supporter, is an old-school, understated football lifer. But on the subject of Vick, he raves:

"(Vick's) just exciting. I love what Peyton Manning and Drew Brees and Tom Brady do. But it's different. They are great at what they do; I love to watch them, but Mike takes your breath away.

"You watch him and you say, 'How did he get away from that guy; how did he make that deep throw; how did he throw across his body like that?' "

By all accounts, Vick has dedicated himself to the craft of his position as never before. In interviews now, he sounds markedly more clear-headed than during his Atlanta days. He has struck all the right notes thus far this season, including dedicating himself to regular appearances on behalf of the anti-dog fighting campaign of the Humane Society of the United States.

That cause has benefited even from those wishing Vick ill. A pair of Green Bay fans this season pledged $10 to the Humane Society for every time the quarterback was sacked. The total currently stands at $340.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told the Philadelphia Inquirer, "This young man has turned his life around, and he's going to contribute."

While Vick never can outrun his past, there are signs that he has begun to at least give it a good race.

Nowhere has the Vick conversation been more divisive than in Atlanta, where he was the franchise's No. 1 overall draft pick in 2001. His rise lifted the Falcons profile nationally and titillated the fan base like no other player, including Deion Sanders. And his fall absolutely laid waste to the franchise for two seasons.

Chris Dimino, co-host of morning sports talk on Atlanta's 790 The Fan, has found himself moderating the debate over Vick's standing among Falcons fans. It often swings between vitriol and blind adoration, seeming to break down frequently along racial lines.

"I never thought I'd see the light at the end of that tunnel. But I do sense that there is a turn (in the tone of the conversation)," Dimino said.

He was stupidity personified. He paid the price; now let's move on. People like a redemption story.
--Chris Dimino, Atlanta sports talk radio host

"Most people now are playing the good-for-him, give-him-a-second-chance card," he added. "He was stupidity personified. He paid the price; now let's move on. People like a redemption story. "Of course, if the Falcons weren't 13-3 now, there might be a heck of a lot more venom than there is now."

Vick's past and present teams may be on a collision course for an NFC Championship game meeting in Atlanta, at which time the old scab will be ripped clean off.

Deciding on how to deal with Vick here at center stage would be so much easier if only there were a porthole to his soul, allowing a peek at what's really in there. How can any fan know?

Vick's road to fan acceptance is the same one that will take him to a new contract; his two-year deal (which with bonuses and incentives have earned him a reported $7 million) runs out this season. He seems to realize the practical truth that what he does is going to amount to much more than what he utters. He recently told Sports Illustrated, "I don't think me saying the right thing is going to get me a new deal. It's all about my play. It's all about how you conduct yourself as you play well. I don't have to put on a front around anybody."

The idea that people can change -- that's the notion Wayne Pacelle's life is built around. "If it was my belief that people were static, I don't think I could come to work every day," says the president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.

Vick is just one of a number of former dog fighters and animal abusers that Pacelle's group has enlisted as spokesmen against cruelty. Vick has made a dozen appearances in major cities in the East, attempting to reach youngsters who could be lured into the practice of pitting dogs against each other in back alleys and abandoned buildings, so-called "street fighting."

Pacelle said he has been asked a thousand times whether he believes Vick is sincere. Asked for the 1,001st time, he said, "I don't get into that."

All he knows for sure is that he has seen Vick speak to hundreds of youngsters who, because of the quarterback's status, "sit and listen in rapt attention."

Will the head of the Humane Society be rooting for the one-time dog fighter this weekend?

Pacelle is one of the very few who remain mute on that subject.


Mary - posted on 01/12/2011




For those of you who think it's okay for him to be back in a position where the general public (including children) are cheering for him, I have to it because his crimes were committed against dogs and not humans?

What if he had been torturing and abusing children? Would you then find it acceptable for him to return to the NFL if he had served his time? After all, he would still be what he is - a criminal who had served his time.

Does the fact that his cruelty and lack of compassion, humanity and morality somehow bother you less because the victim wasn't human?

I highly doubt that if he had tortured, abused, and murdered even one child, as opposed to the numerous innocent animals he did this to, none of you would be so quick to offer him a second chance for his "mistakes", be it in the public eye or not.

Jenny - posted on 01/10/2011




No, it's not ok to cheer for moral bankruptcy. It's yet another case of someone being forgiven in the public eye becasue they put on a good show for the crowd and make money. Go read the details on how this person killed those dogs. He deserves a lifetime of mediocrity at best. I find the fact that he's playing again totally disgusting.

Meghan - posted on 01/12/2011




yeah, what he did sucked. But it has nothing to do with him as a football player...if he had tortured and abused kids yea...I would feel a little different. I like animals but I personally don't hold animals on the same level as humans (even though half of them are smarter and posses more common sense than most humans so I probably should.) Anyway, he did what he had to do, he continues to make an effort and he fills out those tights pretty nice. Just entertainment.

Rosie - posted on 01/09/2011




yeah it's ok to cheer for him, he served his time. sure he's a dickhead, and i'm repulsed by what he did, but it's something separate from football. i just don't really think of it when i'm watching. of course i wouldn't cheer for vick anyway, tony romo all the way baby, lol!!!

Mary - posted on 01/08/2011





For me, some things are unforgivable, and the abuse and murder of animals is not something I can get past. I understand that he served his time (not nearly enough for his crimes, IMO). I'm glad that he is working with the HSUS to educate others about the evils of dog fighting.

That doesn't mean that I don't still despise him, and find him utterly repulsive. If the Ravens had hired him, I would cease to be a fan (which would please my Steelers-loving husband immensely!). I can't deny that he's a talented football player; that was never the issue. I just think he's as reprehensible as a pedophile, and not deserving of any public praise or adoration.

Of course, I am the owner of a rescued pit bull, and I volunteer with a pit bull rescue in my area.


View replies by

Tah - posted on 01/12/2011




i have a dog, i love majesty to pieces, i also beleive that humans make mistakes, for several reasons and also think that sometimes people may need a little fall from grace and to do some time to have time to think and get their lives together. i would be more upset if it was a child, maybe to you thats a bad thing, doesn't mean i agree or think what he did was right, by no means do I. I just wonder when it will be enough for some people. There are people who have murdered or hired to have people murdered, and other horrid things and the american public have forgiven them, with a slap on the wrist sometimes. He went to jail, he seems sincere to me, he has paid millions, he continues to pay and give to animal shelters etc. To some people he will never be able to make amends, it will never be enough and i just choose not to live judging people forever when they are at least trying to do better.

Danielle - posted on 01/11/2011




As a pitbull owner and an advocate for the breed it's not something I can get past. I think he would still be doing it if he hadn't got caught. That's not change. It's show. It infuriates me that this man could do something so horrible and "pay his dues" and then be accepted as a role model for children. Which he is. I am a die hard Auburn fan (BCS CHAMPS!! WDE) but if Cam Newton did something even remotely like that, that would be it for me. I sit here now listening to my pit snoring on my couch and can't help but wonder what kind of person could do that to an animal?!? If it had been a different kind of dog like a poodle or a lab would ppl be so accepting of the situation?

April - posted on 01/10/2011




I don't like football...but I think refusing to cheer for Michael would be holding a grudge and that's not good. It's better to send out positive vibes and to be an inspiration to HIM. It's much easier to make good on your second chance when you have people who believe in you.

Amber - posted on 01/09/2011




I'm really torn on this issue. I recognize what amazing talent he has, but it really bothers me that he did absolutely horrid things to innocent animals.

I do think that karma kicked in today and my Packers were able to beat them ♥ Go Packers!

Sherri - posted on 01/08/2011




He served his time and definitely deserves a second chance. He is a free man and everyone makes mistakes. He made mistakes, got punished for those mistakes....Over and done with.

Die Hard Patriots Fan already clinched our playoff spot and home field advantage ......... Hence my son's name Brady after Tom Brady.

LaCi - posted on 01/08/2011




♥ steelers.

I'll cheer for pretty much anyone if they're playing the colts though.

CMON JETS! :) rahrahrah.

Halley - posted on 01/08/2011




Im a niners fan, brother is a cowboys fan...its always an epic debate at our house when we are together...needless to say I will never cheer for the matter what lol

Tah - posted on 01/08/2011




Heck no it's not's only ever okay to cheer for cowboys...yes a sw Philly girl born and raised said is okay to give him a second chance so that the poor misguided people who actually like the eagles can cheer for him....yes, everyone deserves a second chance, the American Public has forgiven worse,

LaCi - posted on 01/08/2011




Uh, yeah. Especially if he's on your fantasy team.

He served his time. Everyone deserves second chances. I don't agree with what he did, I think it's heinous. I'm glad he was punished. That's the point though, really, he was punished.

[deleted account]

I have a really hard time with this, I cheer for him; I'm a bit of Vick fan, and now that my 49ers have ZERO chance at a playoff Im rooting for the Eagles to take it all the way...I didn't know much about him until the dog fighting thing blew up the animal LOVER in me wants to hate him, but watching him play IS pretty incredible, he's (now) very dedicated to his job and I applaud his giving back to the Humane Society whether he's sincere or not (though I think he is).

Join Circle of Moms

Sign up for Circle of Moms and be a part of this community! Membership is just one click away.

Join Circle of Moms