Let me start by saying before Michael Vick’s legal troubles, I could probably count on my hands how many times I heard his name. Clearly, I am not an NFL fan or a big sports fanatic. My point is, I don’t really care about Michael Vick and am not invested in whether he plays or does not play football.
I went from barely noticing Michael Vick was alive to hearing about him constantly when he was brought up on charges and subsequently convicted of felony dogfighting charges. I had to witness the outrage from people who wondered how a man could go to jail for some dogs. Over and over people went on about how it was just some dogs and therefore it was ridiculous for Vick to be in jail. Okay. I’m not an animal activist and I’m not even really a dog person (I like cats). Still, it was very annoying to me that people were making a bigger deal of the perceived low value of a dog’s life than the fact that Vick just plain broke the law. There are lots of laws that people find ridiculous, but until you get the legislation changed, the law stands and going against it is a violation with consequences. Plain and simple, Vick broke the law (and in a shitty way, I might add) and therefore must pay the consequences. If the length of the sentence bothered people, well that was also written into law via statute and aggravated by the fact that Vick lied to the judge. Judges don’t like that. Remember that when judges have sentencing discretion, you might not want to lie to them or otherwise piss them off. Just a note.
So to me, Vick going to jail was not a big deal. While I’m cognizant of the many issues facing Black men and the justice system and the subchapter of Black athletes and the media, I couldn’t get all riled up about his situation. Apparently, all of the folks who were crying Free Michael Vick and “it’s just some dogs” didn’t get TOO riled up because I didn’t hear about them writing to their congressperson or lobbying to change federal dogfighting statutes. Let’s be clear that I am not factoring in the NFL’s decision to conditionally reinstate Vick, limiting his ability to work out and/or play depending on his getting picked up by a team. The validity or fairness of that decision isn’t something I feel I can comment on appropriately so I won’t.
So now Vick is out of jail. He paid his debt, served his time and is ready to get back to work. For him, work is killing the football field. Despite still being firmly within his playing years, Vick was having trouble finding a team to take him… until tonight. The Philadelphia Eagles announced that they have signed Vick to a two-year contract. Okay, great for him. He’s a good player (that much I do know) and Philly is a city of fierce fans dying to cheer for their football team. Just looking at Twitter and Facebook tonight and seeing all of my Philly friends and Eagle fans is very telling. Folks are happy and that’s okay. I get being happy about having a great player join your team. I even get being happy about a Black man being able to find a job (in the most basic sense) after being incarcerated. Not an easy task.
What I don’t get is folks acting like he escaped some kind of unfair persecution at the hands of the State for nothing. Jesse Jackson is out here comparing Vick to Jackie Robinson! Really? Michael Vick is an athlete who did some cruel, dumb stuff which was also illegal, got caught, was punished, served his punishment, and emerged with another chance to live a privileged life (although before his conviction he was the highest paid NFL player w/a 10 year, $130M contract, he’s still doing well in this economy w/the Eagle’s offer of $1.6M in year one and an option $5.2M in year two). That’s the story. Let’s not make a martyr out of the dude. Too many times we excuse athletes’ behavior because they are our heroes, they do what many cannot do and we place them on a pedestal because of it. The same can be said for actors, musicians and other celebrities. Though, for some reason, seems like more folks are okay with keeping Chris Brown away from Michael Jackson tributes or even making another R&B album after his transgressions. (This is where detractors/critics would point out that Rhianna is not a dog). I’m not for or against Michael Vick. I am just not drinking the Kool-Aid on this one.