Tuesday, December 28, 2010

In Bizarre Parenthetical to Presidential Business, Obama Supports Philadelphia Eagles' Michael Vick

I wonder what Bo, the President's dog, thinks of his owner's 
latest political move to celebrate a convicted dogfight producer?

Posted by: Noël Jones

As reported in an article by Chris Chase of Yahoo News, President Obama apparently carved out time in his presidential schedule to call Jeffrey Lurie, the owner of the Philadelphia Eagles, to congratulate him on giving Michael Vick a second chance because there are not enough employers out there who are willing to give ex-cons a second chance at redemption. Is he serious?

While I agree that we, as a nation, need to commit some serious attention to the issue of reducing recidivism among ex-cons re-entering society after paying their debt for their crimes, so as to avoid their returning to criminal activity to survive, we are talking about a wealthy professional athlete and celebrity here--someone with plenty of money to survive, that could easily go into business for himself if he hadn't already been taken back by the Philadelphia Eagles.

This is disturbing on many levels:

  1. Doesn't the President have more important things to focus on? Like encouraging small business, economic development and job creation? Finding a responsible way out of runaway spending on a flailing war in Afghanistan? How about reforming a seriously flawed health care bill, or a seriously flawed Wall Street reform bill? What about following up on the EPA's fledgling investigations into water contamination due to natural gas drilling, or the FCC's recent move to destroy net neutrality?
  2. If we give him the benefit of the doubt and say that he is at least trying to send a good message here, it is in the worst possible way. In a nation where more people watch sports than vote, by doing this the President is pandering to a populace who worships professional athletes and reinforcing that paradigm. We pay professional athletes too much, encourage their behavior by making them celebrities. Rape, murder, domestic abuse, dogfighting and drug use are all par for the course in media coverage of the celebrity athletes who let fame go to their heads. That is to say nothing of non-criminal behaviors like rampant infidelity. Much like rock stars, politicians,  televangelists and other multi-millionaires, they see themselves as above the law, and too many times, the rewards for professional athletes getting out of jail do everything to reinforce that notion.
  3. As for paying his debt and learning his lesson in prison, I am hardly convinced by a man who managed to whine while still in jail that life just wouldn't be worth living if he didn't get to play professional sports again. No other job would be worthwhile. In other words, our lives, our jobs, are not worthwhile. If he can't be a celebrity millionaire again, life just isn't worth living.
  4. Michael Vick had already been given his second chance--not just at life--but at stardom and a millionaire lifestyle, when the President called on his behalf. There is little to nothing in common between a millionaire celebrity professional athlete, and the challenges that face ex-cons in our communities who are released from jail with no money, no jobs, no place to stay, and ride to get there. Bolstering the reputation of a celebrity criminal does nothing to help the 99.9% of people who get released after paying their debts to society with no resources. Recidivism is currently 70% in the U.S. Sticking up for Michael Vick does nothing to curb that rate.
  5. As a dog-owner, isn't the President seriously disturbed by a criminal who has such low regard for animal life and suffering? Readers might be interested to know that Vick has said publicly that he wants to own a dog again.
  6. It is further disturbing that this reporter thinks that this is all a brilliant political move on the President's part, with a focus on re-election in 2012.
Am I the only one disturbed by this story? Feel free to agree or disagree and post your comment here!


Anonymous said...

I think the President used this situation to make the point that you must give individuals a second chance if we are ever going to fight our way out of prison expansion as our sole domestic policy.

Vick served his time --- more than some people who commit murder or manslaughter or other crimes of this magnitude. He deserves the chance. Of course under strict oversight but he deserves the chance. If he was a truck driver would you agree the President would want to give him a second chance as well.

I applaud the President -- he is an individual who is not afraid to let the public know what makes him tick. Very refreshing in a national leader.

And no, I am not an Eagles fan -- go Giants!

Bernie O'Hare said...

I don't think they're going anywhere.

noel jones said...

Anon 11:33--I hear you about the truck driver, but that's precisely my point--the President would have done more to make the anti-recidivism point, if he had made a call on behalf of a regular person who needs the help, rather than a celebrity pro athlete who had already gotten his job back without the phone call.

I would have applauded him if he had made a public statement on behalf of truckers, or construction workers, etc.

Dennis R. Lieb said...

Allow me a bit of NFL diversion:

Bernie... As a KC Chiefs fan, who is finally seeing some light at the end of a 40 year tunnel, I'm with you on the Giants...they're toast. Eagles fans need to realize that their team was handed the division by a Giant franchise in meltdown mode (as proved by the Packers performance against them Sunday). The Eagles and their quarterback are both overrated based on some statistical run-ups against the Giants and pathetic Redskins. As the play-offs approach it will be interesting to see if Andy Reid can overcome past clock-management issues and key, in game coaching decisions that have stymied that franchise in five attempts at the brass ring.
It will also be enjoyable to see the better defensive coordinators of their playoff opponents come up with game plans to funnel Vick to his right on broken plays and force him to throw short, accurate passes, which he seems averse to pursuing except in panic mode. Finally, the Eagle defense has shown no ability to stop anybody's running game for weeks. As for the Chiefs; I will enjoy the bonus of playing each week for the right to continue playing another week. All else is gravy for me this year.

More important matters:

Noel...I would make these minor points about Vick: He was convicted and jailed for considerable time for something (dog fighting) that normally goes with a slap on the wrist in this country. His high-profile status in the NFL actually hurt his legal defense in this case. The animal rights community burned him at the public stake and I don't blame them in the least. Lying to his former boss (Falcon's ownership) didn't help his public image. It is hard for a millionaire player to claim some cultural handicap as a reason for involvement in dog-fighting when his entire life was spent being groomed by college and pro staffs to become a marketing tool for the league. As for whether he could have succeeded at other businesses after prison, who knows, but the issue of him being financially capable of starting over is inaccurate as his fines and forfeiture of NFL salary left him pretty much bankrupt. I don't feel sorry for him but the fact was that he lost everything as a result of the case.

This is where the hypocrisy starts. Vick isn't back in the league because he was singled out by NFL management for a second chance or to make PR points with the public. He is there because there are 32 people in this country capable of being an NFL starting quarterback and he is one of them. His physical skills - and that alone - is why he is playing in Philly. For the President to be so naive (some would say stupid) as to hold Vick up as a symbol of second chances for ex-cons is ludicrous. Some poor sucker working for Waste Management, McDonald's or your analogy of a truck driver would be more demonstrative of the reality of working your way back into society but it wouldn't have the cache' of a Michael Vick, NFL quarterback. Sad in this age that our President feels comfortable insulting our intelligence as if we believed the guy was playing again out of the goodness of the Eagles owner's heart.

Of course there is a way to protest this situation and that is with your wallet. Don't go to Eagle games as long as Vick is playing. Don't buy season tickets or jerseys; don' get the NFL Season Ticket on DirecTV. Don't watch his Sunday games on the free networks. When the NFL knows it is hurting there bottom line, players like Vick and PacMan Jones and T.O. among others will disappear. That isn't happening now. I only know one person who gave up tickets and stopped watching the Eagles because of Vick. Maybe he has an acute love of animals - I don't know. When the hypocrisy of Americans forgiving their pro athlete's all sins in exchange for production on the field stops you will not see teams and leagues signing these players and you will not have the President using them as PR props.


tunsie said...

I dont think it is a black or white issue...Even if he were a fireman too fat to work but not fat enough to prevent him to drive.he should not make big money.doctors save lives and when they make a mistake they cant practice and save lives.I dont care if U have a fat ugly wife.It still does not preclude U from the law.I love You NOEL.....TUNSIE

Anonymous said...

Aren't there more important issues to think about than whether the president supports Michael Vick? How does this affect any of us?

Anonymous said...

We just are not getting it as individuals and as a society.

Michael Vick causes us to ponder that great feature of Christian thought,

"And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us"

We don't easily forgive. That is understandable. It is one of those great frailties of the human condition. But, our faith is suppose to lead us.

It's too easy to overlook what Vick did in hopes for a couple of wins. But, can we or society really forgive him? If we can break through to that concept, then something special has happened. And, just maybe, we can apply that feeling to the transgressor who lives across the street.

Michael Vick is a very elementary lesson. The problem is most of us are not getting it.

Anonymous said...

It's about a strong belief in redemption. No one loves dogs more than I do and I was not one of those willing to continue punishing someone who had already done more time for cruelty to animals than most child molesters draw for their crimes. He did his time and according to our legal system his debt to society is paid.