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The Carletonian

Born in the USA: The Michael Vick story: An example of American forgiveness

<st Sunday Michael Vick stepped onto the football field during a regular season game for the first time since 2006, bringing his career full circle. Only two years ago, Vick was America’s number one enemy, when it was revealed that he participated in and bankrolled a dog fighting ring. Now, he is back on the field and winning over fans’ hearts and appreciation again. In a country that prides itself on giving people second chances, Vick shows us how forgiving the American public is, no matter what you have done.

As a quarterback at Virginia Tech, Vick was branded as a rare talent: A player who was as lethal rushing as he was passing. He was an athletic specimen few had seen on the football field. As a redshirt freshman, Vick led Virginia Tech to the national title game and appeared on the cover of ESPN The Magazine. Vick chose to enter the NFL draft following his redshirt sophomore season. Vick was taken by the Atlanta Falcons with the first overall pick of the 2001 draft and was the first African American quarterback ever taken number one in the NFL Draft.

Vick was quickly the face of the franchise and their most marketable player, making three pro bowls and leading the Falcons into the playoffs. He signed lucrative endorsement deals with companies such as Nike, EA Sports, Coca-Cola, Powerade, Kraft and Hasbro, worth over $50 million. Vick also signed a ten-year $130 million contract with the Atlanta Falcons.

Americans could not get enough of Vick. He had a signature footwear line. Kids wanted to play quarterback like him and his jersey was a bestseller. However, all of that ended in 2007 when he was indicted on federal charges of dog fighting. Vick became public enemy number one, suspended from the NFL indefinitely and cut from the Atlanta Falcons. People held protests outside his court hearings, yelling at him and calling him a murderer. In August 2007, Vick plead guilty and was sentenced to 23 months in prison. In July 2008 Vick also sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. He had hit rock bottom.

However, Vick was given a second chance. He was conditionally reinstated by the NFL and signed a one-year contract with the Philadelphia Eagles. Before he even played a down, his jersey was number four on the NFL’s best-selling list. Fans have embraced him across the country and see him as someone who recognizes where he went wrong and has fundamentally changed. Whether or not this is in fact the case, the Michael Vick saga has shown us that America is fundamentally a forgiving place.

In America entrepreneurs can declare bankruptcy and wipe their slate clean. People who are fired can find a new job and people who are sent to prison can rehabilitate themselves and have some opportunities when they are released.

While we love to see celebrities and people in the spotlight torn down, we love even more to see them rise up again. Bill Clinton and Ted Kennedy overcame personal scandals, an affair and a drunken driving incident respectively, to become viewed as respected statesmen. Michael Jackson was accused of child molestation and torn apart by the American public for that and his obsession with plastic surgery. Americans set aside his personal issues and prior to Jackson’s death he sold out 50 shows in London for a comeback tour.

Examples of great comebacks abound. When public figures screw up, we love cutting them down to size, but when the same people prove that they have changed and seek forgiveness, we are there to embrace them and look over their missteps. Michael Vick’s crimes were horrendous and apprehensible, but his return to the NFL and the reception he has received from sports fans across the nation show is comforting. Even if you never have been or never will be a Michael Vick fan, he serves as an example of the character of Americans and America. This country is a place where people are given a second chance to succeed and make the most of themselves. That attribute is one of the reasons why our country is great.

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