Detroit Free Press
We're a forgiving people, just not a forgetful one.
There will never be a clean slate for Michael Vick, nor should there be. His apologists equate his release from federal prison sometime today as washing away the stains of his heinous transgressions. Punitive debt paid, he's somehow owed the opportunity to continue his high life before the feds exposed his sordid sub-life.
Vick doesn't walk out of prison a football player. He's a convicted felon.
Vick has a right to make a living, but playing in the NFL remains a special privilege dutifully earned. Vick has the right to prove that he's reformed, that he's grown from his mistakes. But the NFL isn't constitutionally bound to provide him with that platform.
Immediately reinstating Vick to the NFL upon completion of his two-month house arrest in July would be an ill-advised business move for the league.
Is Vick truly appreciative of all he's lost? Prove it now that he's out of jail. Have him spend another year as an average layman earning modest wages trying to make ends meet. Test his tenacity in maintaining his football conditioning while working a regular 9-to-5 job. Give him a real taste of what second chances at redemption are for the rest of us who don't run a 40-yard dash in 4.3 seconds or rifle a football 70 yards. Perhaps the additional humility wipes away the last vestige of celebrity entitlement and Vick emerges as a truly repentant individual.
His problem is that he will never shake the loathsome portrait conveyed in the federal government's case, chronicling how he and his associates choked, hung and even electrocuted pit bulls because they weren't mean enough to win dogfights.
The issue isn't the value of a human life compared to an animal. The issue is strictly criminal intent.
NFL defensive end Leonard Little got drunk following a birthday party, got behind the wheel of a car and tragically took the life of an innocent woman in another car in 1998. Little pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter. He served 90 days in jail and resumed his professional career.
Why should Little get another chance in the NFL while Vick forever sits since Vick "only killed dogs?"
But it wasn't Little's intention to deliberately take another life when he took the wheel that night.
If it was, prosecutors could've charged him with first-degree murder and, if convicted, he'd remain in prison to this day.
You cannot look at Vick's situation through Little's legal prism.
You cannot escape the premeditated viciousness of Vick torturing and killing animals for a number of years under the guise of an underground business enterprise. It was no accident, no instance of criminally poor judgment. It was a savagely calculated plan.
You cannot forget that. Ever.
But the onus for turning the page rests predominantly on those still outraged over Vick's deeds. They should just "get over it." Let the man live his new life. Let him play NFL football.
But the latter two points are mutually exclusive.
If Vick and his cadre of sycophants still only measure his self-worth as strictly a football player at the outset of his new life, then he's learned nothing from the last two years. There will be no genuine remorse for his actions, only a perceived victim's contempt for his persecutors.
Vick will have every opportunity to show all that he's a new person possessing a new moral compass, but that has absolutely nothing to do with him taking another NFL snap.