Friday, August 14, 2009

Debt Paid, but No Forgiveness

Forgiveness--It is a word that many of us loosely throw around like “love.” We say it, often want and need it at some point in our lives, but do we really mean it or even know what it means? How do we define forgiveness? In the book of Matthew (18:21-22) the disciple Peter asks Christ about forgiveness, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Until seven times?” Christ’s reply was that you should forgive your brother seventy times seven.

That’s a lot.

Michael Vick seems to test some our collective ability to forgive and also to judge one’s actions. Vick was signed by the Philadelphia Eagles yesterday and it has been the top news story across sports media outlets around the country. Moments ago an official press conference was held to publicly announce him as part of the team. Vick, surrounded by Coach Andy Reid and former NFL coach and now mentor, Tony Dungy, made yet another series of apologies for his actions and it still seems to some that is not enough. Nor was the once famed quarterback’s twenty-three months in prison enough. Earlier this morning on ESPN Radio’s “Mike and Mike In the Morning”, they took calls from around the nation and asked people about their thoughts on Vick. The response was overwhelmingly negative if not outright hostile.

To say there is a plethora of negativity from fans of the Eagles, of football, pet lovers and people just generally speaking, is an understatement. Michael Vick seems to be just as polarizing as President Obama’s healthcare initiatives. I’m just waiting for some of the so called journalists at FOXNews to call Vick and the Eagles front office “socialist”.

The attempts to make Vick some kind of demagogue are outlandish and petty to say the least. He is ready to move on with his life and get back to work and so should we. It seems like his actions are holding an inordinate amount of weight for his crime. Would folk rather he be stoned or executed? How about let’s lock him into a stockade in some public square, will that feed the lynch mob mentality displayed by some Americans? Unfortunately I doubt it. I’m not suggesting in any way that Vick should not have been punished for what he did. He should have, though I still do not believe he should have done any jail time. Significant fines, suspension from the league for a brief period…all these I can agree with but incarceration was just sending a message to Vick, and other black athletes.

Some will read this post and say I’m playing the race card. Well, I am. If you look at the responses about Vick, the vast majority of the most visceral and damning attacks are by whitefolk. I am not saying that across the board African Americans support Vick. We are not a monolith, but I think that some organization should show him some support. Both he and they could use the good press. I challenge the NAACP, Urban League, our various fraternal and sororal organizations, to help out. But maybe some of our black churches will step up to help this brother, they likely are best suited to do so.

Outside of reading his playbook, Vick needs to read about the trials and tribulations of Heavyweight Boxing Champion Jack Johnson, even talk to Jim Brown. It would be great if he could have a conversation with Muhammad Ali. Vick deserves a second chance. The road back to the top will be hard but I believe and remain hopeful and prayerful that he can do it.

The reality is that Michael Vick has paid his debt to society. He owes nothing to PETA, the Humane Society or anyone else. He must show that he is capable of being a responsible employee of the National Football League and the court system by staying out of trouble, but he owes us nothing. I hope he remembers that. It is time for him to move on with his life and start a new chapter. Hopefully this new one showcases his talent on the field and not his shortcomings off of it.

For the folk that think Vick is the scum of the earth, (especially the Christian ones) have you ever been in need of forgiveness? Let ye who without sin cast the first stone. I hope the best for Michael Vick and his family. He can exceed expectations and make steps to continue to be self defining, but only time will tell. In the meantime America needs to remember that it has bigger concerns to address.


Nicole said...

Thank You for writing this piece. I agree with everything you have said and appreciate your view of the issue. This piece said everything I have been thinking for the past few days.

JeffS said...

You apparently do not understand that cruelty to animals is taken VERY seriously by a large percentage of the population.

That you think he shouldn't have served any jail time implies that you too lack a certain amount of compassion.

He will not simply be forgiven because jail did not restore the lack of character that he has displayed. I couldn't care less what his skin color is. White, black, rich, poor makes not one bit of difference.

If his skin were a different color, you would not be discussing him at all. Racial bias indeed. Do the NAACP, Urban League and your black churches not have anything better to do than defend a man who could earn nearly ten million over the next two years? Poor Michael.

negrointellectual said...


Let me thank you for reading my post. I appreciate your point of view and respect it. I do have a question for you. Are you a vegan or vegetarian? Because if you are not, I seriously doubt you made a big fuss about how you got the meat for the last hamburger, chicken sandwich, pulled pork dinner, or breakfast meat you recently ate, or purchased for someone else.

I discussed this issue because it has become a larger media issue that indeed does have racial implications. PETA or any of their supporters would not be talking about this situation if Vick was not a professional athlete, just as you assume that I would not be talking about him if he were not black.

As far a defending Vick is concerned, I defend him from the standpoint that has has paid his debt to society. The court of public opinion will likely never forgive Vick, that is fine. He is like the OJ of the animal world for some. The question I ask though when will it be enough? America has bigger issues to tackle such as healthcare, education, and two wars.

Folk now are asking or trying to ascertain if he was sincere in his apology. Give me a break! So now his harshest critics are all trained psychologists and mental health experts? The reality is that time will let ALL of us know if Vick has changed his ways.

There are people in this nation who commit violent acts towards animals everyday. Growing up around farm animals, particularly horses, I have a sensitivity to cruelty to animals. As a dog lover as well, the actions committed were indeed horrific. Thus, your assumption that I am in some way insensitive to larger topic of animal cruelty is misplaced. I have not condoned his actions. As I mentioned, he should have been punished. The severity of his punishment is out of my hands, just like it out of yours.

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