Welcome Back, No. 7

By Dr. Boyce Watkins, BASN Contributor
Updated: August 14, 2009

NEW YORK (BASN) — He’s back.

After a two-year saga that kept my head spinning, the young man who made a terrible mistake is finally being allowed to make a living. I have supported Michael Vick all along, but not because I felt that he was innocent.

I’ve supported him because I do not believe that dog fighting is the kind of crime that deserves a lifetime punishment. So, to the extremists at PETA who want to see Michael Vick burn in the hell of unemployment and incarceration for the rest of his life, I only have one thing to say: grow up.

Michael Vick’s reinstatement to the NFL and recent signing by the PhiladelphiaEagles unleashed a plethora of thoughts within me. On some level, his return is a bit of an “Athletic Juneteenth” for those who tire of seeing our country make African American athletes into public enemy number one whenever they screw up.

To this day, we act as if Marion Jones is the devil, Barry Bonds is a monster, and Terrell Owens is some kind of criminal. This treatment is nothing new, as blackathletes have been getting villified for decades, and their molehills are consistently turned into mountains, ripe for high-tech lynchings.

This is the tradition of America.

It only seems appropriate that Michael Vick sign his contract in a city like Philadelphia, the place that I love and fear at the same time. I love the city because they’ve supported me in my work with the great Wendy Williams, Dom Giordano and Charlamagne Tha God.

But there is a dark side of “Killadelphia” that shows itself in the way they support their sports teams. They are the fans that cheered when it appeared that Michael Irvin may have broken his neck, so they sure as heck aren’t going to pay much attention to animal rights protestors blocking their path to a Super Bowl.

In a city like Philly, the slogan is simple: “If you win, we forgive all sin.”

Vick will be right at home. My other hope is that Michael Vick himself has learned some valuable lessons from all of this. I am sure that the long, quiet hours in a prison cell taught him a few things about himself and helped him come to terms with the tremendous value of his opportunities.

Before this all went down, one got the sense that Michael Vick thought he was going to be able to ignore this problem as he seemed to ignore everything else.

Perhaps he thought that with enough money and power, he could toggle his way to artificial morality. Well, the truth is that he couldn’t, and Michael hopefully understands that.

For those who want to judge him, we must remember that he was in his 20s when all this happened, and there should be a clear point where he is forgiven for his blatant stupidity and allowed to move on.

Even the animal lovers who hate Michael Vick should see this as an opportunity.

A wise friend once told me that “a former enemy can make the best kind of friend, since this person is going to work extra hard to prove their loyalty.”

In the case of Michael Vick, the Humane Society seems to understand that Vick’s mistake can be used as a tool for public awareness. After all he’s been through, Vick will never be seen swatting a fly or stepping on a cockroach.

He is now willing to give speeches around the nation treating animals as if they are four legged Gods. He will give money, raise money, beg for money and probably do more for animal rights than nearly any person has done over the past 20 years.

Russell Simmons, an avid supporter of the protection of animals, sees this potential, which might be why he is supporting Vick’s reinstatement as well.

One thing that does bother me a bit is the fact that I didn’t expect Vick to get signed and reinstated so quickly. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has a track record of suspending athletes for an entire year for off-the-field activities that demote the brand of the league.

For some reason, he has made an exception in one of the most egregious off-the-field violations in recent NFL history. As a Business School professor, I must confess that I am wondering if Goodell sees what kind of TV ratings bonanza a Michael Vick return might be for the NFL Network.

After all, in the world of entertainment, it’s all about the benjamins, baby.

Don’t be surprised if the first Michael Vick game is on pay-per-view – somebody’sgonna get rich