Murder, domestic violence, rape allegations, child abuse and animal abuse are a fraction of the crimes that have made their way into the NFL’s headlines. However, only few served time for their actions, and of the players that did serve time, some people felt it was insufficient.
What does it say about the NFL reinstating athletes who have committed heinous crimes? What does it say about the teams that sign them to multi-million dollar contracts? Does everyone deserve a second chance?
The Pittsburgh Steelers have recently felt the backlash of signing a player with a notorious past. Michael Vick, a four-time Pro Bowler, was signed in the offseason to be a back up for starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
The same day it was announced Vick signed a one-year contract with the Steelers, the Facebook page “Pittsburghers Against Michael Vick” was created by Rally for Animals, a non-profit organization. They have 27,891 likes on their page since being created on Aug. 25 and are holding their fourth rally on Oct. 18.
Roethlisberger told an nlf.com writer, “for me, it’s about any way, any person, any thing who can help this team. If that’s Michael Vick, then so be it.”
However, Roethlisberger isn’t free of scandal. Multiple women have accused him of sexual assault since 2008, which could possibly sway his opinion on second chances and forgetting past transgressions.
No matter how hard the Steelers organization tries to downplay Vick’s crimes, people, including their fans, cannot forget the evil that Vick has done.
It was eight years ago on April 25, 2007, Surry County authorities in Virginia stumbled upon the horrors at Vick’s “Bad Newz Kennels” property. They found 54 dogs, a bloodstained fighting area and performance-enhancing drugs commonly used in dogfights amongst other incriminating evidence.
In the Federal indictment paperwork on the case it was stated, “In or about April 2007, [Vick and his accomplices] executed approximately eight dogs that did not perform well in ‘testing sessions’ by various methods, including hanging, drowning, and slamming at least one dog’s body to the ground.”
Vick served 18 months in federal prison, and was able to serve the “final two months of his sentence confined to his luxury home in Virginia,” as documented by the Animal Legal Defense Fund. Even though x he was found guilty of lying multiple times to the court about his involvement in the dogfighting operations during the legal process.
On July 27, 2009, seven days after Vick’s ankle monitor was removed and his incarceration ended, he was reinstated back into the NFL and signed by the Philadelphia Eagles.
Nancy Cuevas, an animal rights activist, said, “I feel that because of the severity of the crime itself the punishment should have been [stricter].”
This is a mutual agreement felt by many that have heard and read the horrors that happened at “Bad Newz Kennels.”
“It’s a tough one, I feel everyone deserves a second chance, however I think just because of the popularity [of the sport], I don’t think it was a good idea he [went] back,” Cuevas said.
Yes, some people deserve second chances, however some people, like Vick, commit crimes that are not easy to disassociate them with. If by some miracle Vick becomes an amazing player again this late in his football career, he will still be known as a dogfighter and a dog killer because people will never forget no matter how hard they try.
“[Vick’s] placement as a quarterback has nothing to do with his scandal, but with the fact he’s now older and not the same quarterback he once was,” Clay Richardson, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for Kingsmen football, said in an email interview.
Vick, now 35 years old, has limited time left in the NFL. Every year new, talented athletes are coming up vying for a spot on a professional team, and Richardson agreed Vick could be replaced.
So, if there are younger, more talented athletes waiting to be signed, why would the Steelers go for a player with a scandalous past who is older than most of the other athletes playing?
According to nfl.com “NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reports Vick’s deal is worth the league minimum, per a source who has seen it.”
The minimum salary for a player with over ten years of experience like Vick is $970,000 according to spotrac.com.
So, if the reports are true, they signed a quarterback with 15 seasons of experience, who won’t need as much training time as a rookie would, for what could be seen as a decent price in management’s eyes.
As the NFL has shown time and time again, the game always comes first.
Published October 14th, 2015