Vick deserves a second chance

The Eagles’ decision to sign Michael Vick was equal parts courageous and shrewd.

Owner Jeffrey Lurie, President Joe Banner, and Coach Andy Reid knew that hiring Vick would risk a public backlash. The former Atlanta Falcons quarterback pleaded guilty in 2007 to operating a dogfighting ring and killing several dogs in gruesome fashion. Vick was sentenced to 23 months in federal prison — harsh time especially when compared with the 30-day sentence another pro football player completed recently for killing a person while driving drunk.

The National Football League suspended Vick indefinitely without pay in August 2007. After completing his prison sentence, Commissioner Roger Goodell authorized Vick to begin playing again.

Many people are outraged that the Eagles are giving Vick a second chance. Some wish Vick would suffer the same fate as the animals he tortured, and argue that he shouldn’t be allowed to play football again.

That’s wrongheaded, mean-spirited, and contrary to the basis of the U.S. justice system. Vick has paid his debt to society. In addition to punishment, prison is also about rehabilitation.

Michael Vick deserves a second chance.

He also deserves a chance to earn a living. The legal fees and prison time have left Vick bankrupt. Vick’s profession just happens to be that of a professional athlete. At age 29, he is still capable of doing his job well and becoming as a productive member of society.

Vick’s behavior since pleading guilty demonstrates so far that he has learned his lesson. He understands playing pro football is a privilege, not a right. Vick knows that all eyes are on him and there is no margin for error.

He has surrounded himself with respected mentors. Vick has already teamed with the Humane Society to use his plight and notoriety to speak against animal cruelty, thus turning a negative into a positive teaching moment.

The Eagles took a public-relations risk in hiring Vick. Their decision shows they believe athletes are capable of redeeming themselves. Kudos to the Eagles for giving Vick that opportunity.

The team is not above admitting that signing Vick is also a business decision. He has the potential to help the Eagles win a Super Bowl. That drove the decision. That is the way of the NFL and most other businesses.

Michael Vick accepted his punishment and paid his debt to society. He shouldn’t be denied a second chance, by the NFL, the Eagles, or anyone else.