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Michael Vick is Getting a Raw DealPosted Friday, September 4, 2009, at 8:40 AM
*Note: This was written Thursday morning, before news that Michael Vick would be reinstated into the NFL on the third week of the regular season. Even though some of the material is now dated, I thought it would generate an interesting discussion about the proper way to reinstate players into the NFL. *
Yep. I said it. Michael Vick is getting the short end of the stick.
We all probably know Michael Vick. He's the oft-arrogant NFL quarterback who, in his six NFL seasons, displayed unbridled athleticism, a knack for getting into compromising situations with marijuana, and a propensity to extend his middle finger to anyone who'd look at it. In his spare time he became a convicted felon for financing an operation that trained pit-bulls to fight one another (while ruthlessly executing those who didn't), and squandered all of his NFL riches.
A real sympathetic character, right?
Today Vick is out of jail and back on the football field. Two months after he completed his jail sentence, he signed a one year contract with the Philadelphia Eagles (where he will probably be used more as a gimmick and decoy than a quarterback). While protesters have followed Vick since his conviction, the general public consensus is that the man served his time and should be allowed to resume with whatever work he can get.
That's fantastic. I have no issues with that. I hope Vick seizes this opportunity to become a better person and turns around not only his life, but this whole culture of spoon-fed athletes who exist on a level that is above the law.
My problem lies with the man who is in charge of letting Vick back into the league, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. However, my contention is not with Goodell's vagueness about the reinstatement of Vick back into the league, or the very real possibility that Goodell has an axe to grind and wants Vick to be the golden example about what happens to players when they cross the commish. These actions are not only justifiable considering Vick continually lied to Goodell and showed no remorse until his conviction, but they are also needed to legitimize the code of player conduct that Goodell has struggled to enforce since he became commissioner.
No, my issue is not with the punishments laid out by Goodell. My problem lies in jersey sales.
Now before anyone passes judgement on my sanity, I suggest a trip to NFL.com and the Philadelphia Eagles team store (if you're having issues, a Google search of "nfl+shop+eagles" will suffice). Now under the "Featured Picks" tab, what's the first jersey visible? Donavon McNab? Brian Westbrook? Nope. It's Michael Vick.
On the surface, this doesn't seem like an atrocity. Since his release from prison, Michael Vick has been a public relations darling (save for a few pineapple vodkas at an airport lounge). He has done the right things, said the right things, and understands his role has a backup for his new team. He's positioning himself to be the comeback player of the century, and it could be said that the NFL is celebrating that by putting his a replica of his jersey up for sale.
Unfortunately, my view of the situation isn't as rosy. Continue searching through the rest of the teams's jerseys in the store. In a very short time it becomes apparent that the NFL isn't just putting up one style of Vick jersey to recognize his return to the league. There are twenty different styles of jerseys available for purchase that come in a number 7 and say Vick on the back. There are pink jerseys, youth jerseys, authentic game jerseys that sell for as high as $315. On top of that, there is a Vick dog jersey (what better way to show a four-legged friend that you care?).
This is a classless move by Roger Goodell and the executives of the NFL. For two years Vick felt the cold shoulder of Goodell and the rest of the league while his life was reduced to shambles (admittedly at his own hands). While he was in prison, Vick was told that his only hope for a return to the league rested not within his own athletic ability, but whether was able to show enough remorse to satisfy the commissioner. Before Vick even signed his contract to play for the Eagles (a team some though he'd be a long shot to make), he was told by Goodell that his only guaranteed playing time for the season would be during two preseason games.
To put it simply, Michael Vick is fighting for his professional life while the NFL uses him as a cash cow to sell $300 jerseys.
No matter how this incident is spun (whether you say it's business, karma, or Vick's own fault), I feel this action is counterintuitive to what Goodell is trying to accomplish. As commissioner, it is Goodell's job to uphold the image of the league, put the best possible product out on the field, and market the league to a large audience. However, making Vick jump through so many inane hoops in hopes of landing a spot in a league that is already making money off of his likeness is wrong. Wait until Vick is assured a spot back into the league, then put his jersey on the rack and put his character back in this year's Madden video game.
Making a quick buck on a bankrupt ex-convict leaves as big a stain on the character of the NFL as anything Michael Vick did.
I would be remiss if I didn't wish you all a happy (and hopefully upset-loss-free) opening of the college football season.
I would like to use this comment thread to gauge whether or not there is any interest in talking some Husker football next week. Let me know.
Have a happy and safe Labor Day weekend!
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My name is Kevin Forch, a Stratton, Nebraska native who uses the McCook Gazette webpage to keep up on the hometown news. I am also a recent graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln who now lives in Kansas, where I work at a community college.