Michael Vick’s 23-month sentence for his part in a dogfighting ring is set to end on Monday.
But he’s far from being off the hook.
In addition to facing the wrath of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and any dog-loving football fans, Vick must get through a sit-down with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in the coming days. With NFL training camps set to begin next weekend, Goodell is expected to act quickly, so inquiring teams have time to get a look at Vick.
Vick supporters obviously want him back in the league. Even some of his detractors have agreed that he served his time and deserves a second chance.
The question is what does he have to do to convince Goodell that he deserves another chance. When stories of Vick’s involvement first hit the public, Vick told Goodell during a face-to-face meeting that there was nothing to it. In other words: Vick lied to Goodell’s face.
That meeting is more than likely still fresh in Goodell’s mind. Vick will have convince Goodell of several things. The first is that he honestly feels remorse. And not for his jail sentence, his shaky financial status or his ruined reputation. He needs to convince Goodell that he feels remorse for the dogs he killed.
Just saying ‘I’m sorry and I won’t do it again’ won’t get it done. It needs to be a heart-felt apology. Even though the NFL has become a powerhouse in sports, Goodell can’t afford to lose sponsors or endorsements in this weak economy. Allowing Vick back into the league will undoubtedly create a backlash.
He also needs to show Goodell that he has taken steps towards paying his debt. Sure, he did his time and Goodell has certainly taken that into consideration. But there is a psychological part to this also.
How much time did Vick take in prison to really think about what he did and who he hurt? He needs to get the message across to Goodell that he thought long and hard about it and is extremely remorseful. Many people who get arrested and apologize generally do it because they got caught and are forced to. Not because they actually feel bad about their vitcims and their families.
Vick isn’t the only NFL athlete to get caught up in dogfighting. Former running back Todd McNair was also convicted of crimes related to the mistreatment of dogs.
McNair’s first conviction was in 1993. McNair, who played for the Kansas Chiefs at the time, didn’t miss a beat in his career as he signed with the Oilers the following season. His second conviction was in 1996.
The difference between the two athletes cases is that Vick, in addition to being a willing participant, was the actual ring leader. Vick bankrolled the operation, which is one of the reasons this case made international headlines.
Vick paid his debt to society, but he still has a long way to go.