Now What?

Dogfighting’s poster child, Michael Vick, leaves prison.
By Lisa Wogan, May 2009

A little more than two years ago, Atlanta Falcons star quarterback Michael Vick (the “Michael Jordan of football”) was charged and convicted of running a dogfighting operation at his estate. The details of brutality, including hanging and electrocuting the dogs, were shocking. Early this morning, Michael Vick was released from prison to serve the last two months of his 23-month sentence in something called “home confinement.” So, what’s next?

According’s extensive coverage, Vick is focused on family and the community, not football, right now. Sports writers and fans are focused on whether the NFL will lift Vick’s suspension (with surprisingly little discussion of what inspired the ban in the first place). Will he return to the pros? Will he begin training again? Who is he—or more importantly, his agent—talking to?

Those of us tracking the story with an eye more on the dogs than Super Bowl rings have other concerns. Our first priority was the fate of the dogs, mostly pit bulls, seized from his property. Many have recovered from their rough treatment and have landed in good homes. Today, they are outstanding ambassadors for their kind—dogs with bad reputations, raised in terrible circumstances who turned out wonderfully. I feel that Vick, who grew up surrounded by poverty and crime, also deserves an opportunity at a second chance.

While in prison, Vick reportedly met with Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States—at the inmate's request. It’s likely he will participate in a program aimed at eradicating dogfighting among urban teens. I hope his involvement isn’t just a cynical attempt to buff his brand with the HSUS name. I believe that if Vick could find a way to convey true remorse and understanding he could be a valuable agent for change. Still, I remain skeptical.

I wonder what others think. What do you need to see from Vick? Has he paid his dues? Would allowing him back into the NFL undermine the seriousness of his crimes? Can he really learn compassion at this late stage?