Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A plan for Michael Vick to restore his image and reach for the top

As suggested in Tuesday’s Insider Report it isn’t a matter of if, but when Michael Vick will return to the National Football League. Vick has committed heinous, unspeakable crimes against defenseless animals and this wasn’t over a short period of time, but as Vick elocuted to in court Monday he committed his crimes over a six year period. This wasn’t a ‘mistake’ made by a once admired member of society, but a criminal conspiracy that occurred over a six year period. Nonetheless a cornerstone of our judicial system allows everyone an opportunity to rehabilitate themselves and get a second chance. The indignation towards the crimes Michael Vick has committed is so far reaching society seemingly wants to ignore the foundation of our judicial system and force the NFL to ban Michael Vick for life. Shame on anyone ignorant to believe Michael Vick (or anyone) who admits they have made a mistake, pays their debt to society and makes further amends doesn’t deserve that second chance.

Monday Michael Vick took those first steps forward in the helping those so incensed by his actions (present company included) the second chance Michael Vick deserves. Michael Vick has never been comfortable speaking publicly. Peyton Manning earned in excess of $11 million last year in endorsements largely due not only to his abilities on the football field but how well he communicates in front of a camera. Manning is a great public speaker, Vick isn’t comfortable. That’s not to excuse what or how he said what he said Monday but verbal presentation skills have never been one of his strengths. Tuesday many members of the national media ripped Michael Vick apart for what he said at his Monday press conference.

Shame on any media member who belittled Michael Vick for how he said what he said Monday. Decency has never been a strong characteristic of the media and one of the worst examples occurred Monday night on Larry King Live. King devoted the first half hour of his nationally televised program on CNN to the Vick story. Several times King showed clips of Vick speaking at his press conference earlier in the day. In a classic example of journalism that more resembles ambulance chasing than it does respectable reporting, the segments that featured Vick speaking also included sounds of dogs barking in the background. When did Larry King (in this case more likely his producers) reach the bottom of the barrel in treating people as badly as Michael Vick was treated Monday night? Is it fair for a nationally televised news program to use sound affects to embarrass someone? Michael Vick has done enough to damage his reputation – he didn’t need any more help from the Larry King show. Those responsible for what took place on the Larry King show Monday night are no better than the gutter producers involved with tabloid shows like The Jerry Springer and Maury Povitch shows. Congrats Larry King – you’ve reached a new low.

Those comments aside Michael Vick has no choice but to continue to speak out and bear the consequences of his actions. He’s the one who committed the crime and now he’s the one who has to deal with the aftermath. Tuesday, Vick according to a report in The Atlanta Journal Constitution cancelled a much-anticipated radio interview with Tom Joyner announced on his Atlanta based nationally syndicated program.

"He really wants to do it, but all of his advisers are advising him not to, because everyone is taking what he says out of context," Joyner told listeners Tuesday.

According to Joyner, Vick had agreed to take calls from listeners and "explain his actions." Joyner said Tuesday the Falcons quarterback, who on Monday pleaded guilty to federal dogfighting charges, called the radio host personally to cancel the interview.

"Mike was very apologetic," Joyner said on his radio show.

Sorry Mike – next time you agree to ‘talk to the people’ you had better follow that up. That said, the media has made it pretty clear they’re going to demand answers to difficult questions from Vick, but that doesn’t excuse the tonality of where the media wants to take this story. Tuesday afternoon on his nationally syndicated radio show Jim Rome had ESPN legal expert Roger Cossack on as a guest. Rome more often than not is one of the better sports radio hosts in the industry hammered home the maximum number of years Michael Vick could be sentenced to. Yes Michael Vick could be sentenced to as many as five years but that isn’t going to take place. Would Rome not have better served his audience if he offered a realistic legal perspective of how much time Vick could serve in prison?

The media has almost been universal in suggesting unless “Michael Vick sings like a canary” (credit CNN’s Nancy Grace for that inane analogy) he could be spending many more years in jail if he doesn’t cooperate with judicial officials. The media should report the story but has to be responsible for what they’re saying and how they’re saying it. Now separate reporting facts, from offering an opinion. Everyone is entitled to their opinions (the more than 500 e-mail’s SBN received Tuesday regarding Tuesday’s Insider that Michael Vick must be allowed to again play in the National Football League can attest to that) but when reporters try to twist or fabricate the truth they are crossing over a line.

“I believe in second chances. I have done so many stupid things in my life that I also believe in third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth chances.

“But I don't know if I believe in Michael Vick. I watched his performance on ESPN late Monday morning and again online, read and re-read the post-plea statement he offered the media.

“He called dogfighting "terrible."

“He blamed nobody but himself.

“He made a mistake when he said he "found Jesus."

“Maybe Vick has. But a man who wants to get out of jail or stay out of jail always says he has found Jesus. Find me a man who stands before a judge who has not found Jesus.” were all included in a column written by Tom Sorensen appearing in Tuesday’s Charlotte Observer. Fine Mr. Sorensen if you don’t believe in Michael Vick, but do you really have a right, does anyone have the basic right to suggest someone is being hypocritical if they have found God in their hour of need? Sorensen attempted to make his case that he didn’t believe Michael Vick was sincere by adding this quote from a Charlotte based lawyer.

"I told a judge once that my client had found Jesus," says George Laughrun, a Charlotte criminal defense attorney for 26 years and the rare attorney people like. "The judge said, `I didn't know he was lost.' "

“I asked Laughrun, whose customers have included former Panthers Rae Carruth (briefly) and Jason Peter, if he writes statements for clients, who then turn his words into theirs.

“Laughrun said he might suggest issues they should address. But a client comes across as more sincere when the message is his own.

“Law is public relations, and going to court is like going on a job interview or a first date. We don't have to be at our best. We have to be better than we are.”

What background in theology does Tom Sorensen have to question’s one’s belief system?

Ironically animal rights groups have seized the opportunity to not denounce Vick for his deviant behavior but to use the pulpit Vick’s actions have afforded them to highlight the bigger picture – the mistreatment of animals as opposed to the terrible actions of one professional football player.

Michael Vick appeared Monday at a federal court in Richmond, Va., to file his plea agreement in the federal case pending since July.

The U. S. Attorney’s office revealed the assistance provided by the ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) in its investigation: ASPCA Forensic Veterinarian, Dr. Melinda Merck, participated in the excavation of the graves and examination of the remains. Further details cannot be provided at this time.

Said ASPCA President & CEO Ed Sayres, “While the details of what the deceased dogs went through are absolutely heartbreaking, we can take some comfort in the fact that our work has helped to renew the spotlight on animal cruelty in this country—and heightened the critical need to attack it at all levels of society. I am extremely proud of Dr. Merck’s and the ASPCA’s stellar contributions to this case.”

As announced last week, the ASPCA will continue to assist in this case by leading a team of animal behavior experts in evaluating the dogs seized from Vick’s property earlier this year. Based on these evaluations, recommendations will be made to the USDA and the U. S. Attorney’s office regarding the disposition of the dogs. Due to the sensitive nature of the evaluations, further details are not possible at this time.

The Humane Society continues to offer a link on their home page to Vick’s Monday press conference, along with a stunning statement from Wayne Pacelle the Humane Society’s President and CEO, a man who represents an organization with more than 10 million members according to its website.

“Michael Vick just made a live, direct statement to the public regarding his circumstance. What he said today was spot on.

“I felt real sympathy for Vick in watching him speak. I saw a man whose life has been turned upside down. No one can feel good about seeing someone take this kind of fall. It's tragic.

“I deplore what he did. Many animals experienced immense and sustained suffering at the hands of men who used their power in the wrong way. There's no defense for it, and Vick offered no excuse for it today. I am heartened that Michael Vick spoke about his mistakes and took responsibility for his actions, calling dogfighting "terrible" and indicating "I reject it."

“I also was very pleased that Michael Vick noted how he failed America's young people. He apologized to them. Michael Vick now can tell a powerful, personal story and show young people that you must take responsibility for your actions and that dogfighting is not a benign hobby, but a sickening, barbaric and criminal action. The practice has been surging in urban centers around the nation, so that message is timely and relevant.”

So lets be clear the Tom Sorensen’s of the world, the producers of the Larry King Show and Nancy Grace are ready to embarrass and do whatever they can to denounce Michael Vick for what he has admitted and is prepared to take responsibility for, but one of the leading animal rights activists is trying to understand what Michael Vick is going through and is actually affording Vick some empathy? Pacelle has every right to never forgive Michael Vick for what he has done, but is it possible Pacelle sees hope in Michael Vick’s message? My God – how utterly ironic those most hurt by Michael Vick’s actions seemingly might one day forgive Michael Vick.

And here is a suggestion Michael Vick can take to the bank. Here’s a plan whereby Michael Vick and Wayne Pacelle can create a lasting legacy to help society understand how terrible we can treat defenseless animals. Michael Vick can step up and announce he is prepared to commit $5 million of his personal fortune to an endowment fund to help educate the public to the cruelty to animals and how we must end the terrible treatment some animals’ experience. And be very clear the cruelty to animals extends far beyond dogfighting, that is but the tip of iceberg. Imagine what $5 million would do to help the public understand they next time they took their kids to a circus how the animals are treated or how barbaric bullfighting is. Just imagine if something good could come out of the terrible and unspeakable crimes Michael Vick has committed – and yes once that is done Michael Vick is given the second chance we all deserve when we make terrible decisions.

For SportsBusinessNews this is Howard Bloom. Sources cited and used in this Insider Report: The Charlotte Observer

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