Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Is Nike Trying To Expand Its Sportswear Empire Into Dogfighting?

I happen to think that Michael Vick deserves a second chance. He has paid his debt to society by spending two years of his prime in federal prison and being driven to bankruptcy, and he has stated his contrition and his willingness to atone for his crimes by doing charity work and advocating for the humane treatment of animals. Personally, I am not yet convinced of his sincerity, but if as a society we really believe in redemption, we ought to give him a chance to prove it. Furthermore, I don't have a problem with him returning to the NFL. I would have preferred it had it not been with the Eagles, my favorite team, as I don't like the cognitive dissonance that comes with rooting for people who have done despicable things to succeed, but again - if we really believe that felons can be rehabilitated and become productive members of society, we ought to afford them a chance to employ their talents to produce for society in whatever capacity they are best able. For Vick, that's as a football player, so - give him a shot.

All that said, this is too much. Nike signing Vick (who has yet to accomplish much on the field in his NFL return, incidentally) to an endorsement deal sends a really terrible message - that if you fall from grace, you won't have to work to redeem yourself and make it back to the top if you were talented and glamorous enough before you screwed up. That forgiveness is pro forma if you make the flimsiest and most cursory attempt to make amends. I suspect the rush to strike this deal is partially a result of America's cultural obsession with redeeming lost souls, and partially simple corporate greed on Nike's part, but I think we really ought to wait a bit longer to see how Vick handles himself before restoring to him his lost laurels. Getting out of prison was the first step of a long climb back to respectability, and he's still at the bottom of the mountain - not the top. If - and I hope this is not the case - it proves that Vick has not actually changed, I hope Nike's business suffers mightily as a result of their haste to embrace him.

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