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Saturday, July 28, 2007

Michael Vick in Perspective

I wonder about several things when it comes to the unfortunate events surrounding Michael Vick: If he were accused of involvement in the recent cockfighting ring discovered in Florida instead of his current woes, would there be near the uproar? If he had a Super Bowl victory or two under his belt, would there be calls for the Falcons to cut all ties with him? Where were all the questions about his character and calls for his release or suspension when he was accused of sexual misconduct posing as “Ron Mexico”? It’s almost as if he has been indicted for murder.

Don’t laugh. I heard more than one ESPN radio commentator recently say, in effect, that in many people’s minds what Vick is accused of is worse than if he had killed a human being. What a sad indictment on our culture.

In the year 2000 Baltimore Raven linebacker Ray Lewis, along with two of his “friends,” were indicted for killing a human being (actually two of them). The murder charges against him were later dropped and he pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor charge of obstruction of justice. In 2004 Lewis settled civil suits filed by the murdered victims’ families. One family, according to the Baltimore Sun, received at least $1 million.

Through all of this, Ray Lewis was never suspended by the NFL (though he did pay a record $250,000 fine). I don’t remember there even being many (if any) calls for the league to do so. I don’t recall protests in front of the NFL offices or at the Ravens’ facilities. Then again, Ray Lewis was coming off a season where he was the NFL leader in tackles and an All-Pro. (He would lead his team to a Super Bowl victory the following season.)

In 2003, when Kobe Bryant was indicted for rape, I don’t recall the NBA or the Lakers suspending him. I again don’t recall there being much demand by anyone that either do so. Then again, at the time Bryant was a perennial all-star and had several championship rings to his credit. I don’t think Bryant missed a single game due to his legal woes. In fact, a number of times Bryant had to be in court inColorado during the day, then immediately would fly to another part of the country to play in the Lakers' game that night.

If you believe, as I do, that the worst parts of the indictment against Vick are the gambling charges, then consider for a moment Michael Jordan. Jordan was no stranger to gambling, as he has admitted to losing hundreds of thousands of dollars (some have speculated that it was many millions) in shady gambling activities.

The NBA “investigated” him more than once, and though some think his first “retirement” was forced, he was never officially disciplined by the NBA or the Chicago Bulls. There was never much of an outcry by the media or the fans against Jordan. Of course, it almost goes without saying what Jordan meant to his fans, his team, his league and his sponsors. Mostly he meant hundreds of millions of dollars. No one wanted to see him go the way of Pete Rose.

Then there are the numerous athletes who, though not accused of criminal actions, at least have displayed behaviors that would cause many to call into question their character.

Tom Brady has fathered a child out of wedlock and is no longer in a relationship with the mother. Chipper Jones committed adultery and fathered a child out of wedlock. (I could go on and on with this list.) Where were the calls for their respective teams to suspend them or release them?

Amanda Beard, an Olympic swimmer with seven medals to her credit, including the gold medal in the 200-meter breaststroke, posed nude for Playboy recently. Do you think the U.S.A. Olympic committee, or most American fans, will have a problem with her representing our country in her sport again, as she aims to do?

You can tell much about people by what outrages or shames them. Would you be more ashamed if your grandfather had been involved in cockfighting or the KKK? Would you rather have your son shoot his neighbor’s dog or commit adultery with his neighbor’s wife? Would you prefer to have your daughter caught at a dogfight or pose nude in a magazine? Which behavior would alarm you more? Which behavior has more lasting consequences?

Because other athletes have been given a pass by their league, the media, and their fans is no reason that Michael Vick should. If he is found guilty of breaking the law, then let justice be done. If he is guilty of poor judgment, then there should be just consequences in that case as well. It seems to me, however, that the fury directed against him now is a bit overblown.

Copyright 2007, Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason.
Trevor and his wife Michelle are the authors of: Debt Free Living in a Debt Filled World

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