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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Vick's sin rates as minor on NFL scale
By ERNEST HOOPER, Times Columnist
Published August 28, 2007
Disgraced NFL quarterback Michael Vick deserves to play again. Period.
Vick, the suspended Atlanta Falcons quarterback who has become the poster child for all that's wrong with dogfighting, finalized his plea deal Monday in a Richmond, Va., federal court. He admitted guilt to one count related to dogfighting conspiracy. Reported accounts suggest Vick, 27, not only participated in dogfighting, but the drowning and electrocution of dogs who did not fight well.
I make no excuses for Vick's actions or his incredibly poor judgment. I don't condone dogfighting or try to explain away Vick's involvement as some kind of cultural difference more affluent (i.e. white) people can't understand. To train dogs for such a blood sport is cruel, inhumane, reprehensible and heinous.
However, when I think of other athletes convicted of crimes and how they returned to the field, I can't fathom why Vick doesn't deserve the same opportunity.
Consider St. Louis Rams defensive end Leonard Little, who in 1998 got behind the wheel of a car while under the influence, ran a red light and killed Sue Gutweiler, a mother of two. For his actions, a Missouri court found Little guilty of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced him to 90 nights in jail as part of a work-release program, 1,000 hours of community service and four years' probation. He also missed eight games in the 1999 season.
Sixteen months after the incident, in January 2000, Little helped his team to a Super Bowl victory in Atlanta. In 2004, Little again was arrested for driving while intoxicated and speeding, but was acquitted on the charge of driving under the influence.
Last season, he had 13 sacks.
Want another example? On the same night Little played for the Rams in that Super Bowl, Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis attended the game, then went out with his entourage. They got in a dispute with two men at a nightclub and the men ended up stabbed to death.
Lewis and two friends were charged. Prosecutors, however, presented little evidence tying Lewis to the deaths and eventually he pleaded to obstruction of justice and agreed to testify against the other two defendants, who would go on to be acquitted.
The league fined Lewis $250,000 and he missed no playing time. None. Less than a year after the trial, Lewis led the Ravens to a Super Bowl victory here in Tampa. Four years later, sportswriters named Lewis the 2004 defensive player of the year, and he earned accolades for his charitable work.
To this day, the slayings remain unsolved.
I could give other examples, all with the same ending: each offender receiving a second chance. That's all I'm asking for Vick, whose acts, while despicable, did not result in the loss of human life.
If you want to argue that Vick deserves to be punished more severely because of intent, fine. His jail time - Vick will be sentenced in December - combined with his league suspension and loss of endorsements already dwarf the punishment received by Lewis, Little and others.
But a lifetime ban? The best result of this senseless tragedy would be a reformed Vick. While Vick the person - not Vick the player - should be the focus going forward, there's no denying football can help in reforming the man.