The Score: How Much Punishment Is Too Much for a Former Football Star?

By Fred Bowen
Thursday, July 23, 2009

Michael Vick, the former All-Pro quarterback, completed his prison sentence for an awful crime this week. The question is: Should Vick be allowed to play in the National Football League?

As you may remember, Vick pleaded guilty to a dogfighting charge in 2007. The police investigation showed that Vick and his friends had trained dogs to fight, and sometimes kill, other dogs. The investigation also showed that Vick and his friends killed dogs that didn't fight well or were too hurt to fight.

So Vick committed a terrible crime. He did things no one should ever do.

Some people think that what Vick did was so bad that he should not be allowed to play professional football again. Others think that Vick has been punished and deserves another chance. This is not an easy question, because playing in the NFL is a privilege and not a right. But I think Vick should be allowed to play.

I should first mention that I own a dog. My family has a West Highland white terrier named Matty that we got from a rescue league nine years ago. I walk Matty at least twice a day and make sure she has food and water. I would never do anything to hurt Matty, and I hate the idea of people hurting dogs.

But Vick served the punishment given to him by the court. He spent nearly two years in prison. He paid almost $1 million for the care of the dogs that had been in his dogfighting ring. Vick has paid a heavy price for his crime. Is it fair to add to his punishment by not allowing him to play football?

Let's say you did something really bad, such as hit and hurt a kid at school. The principal decides that you should be suspended from school for 10 days. She also orders you to write a note of apology to the other child and his family. You do all the punishment. Would it be fair for the principal to say that you can't go out to recess for a month after you return to school?

It's also important to remember and believe that people can change. Kids know people can change because kids are changing all the time. Kids get bigger. They learn more things about the world around them. They also learn, by trying, making mistakes and trying again, to become better, kinder people.

No one can look inside someone's heart to see if he has really changed. Maybe Vick is still the kind of cruel person who would hurt a trusting animal. But I think he should be given another chance to show everyone he has changed. And we should all believe and hope that he can.

Fred Bowen writes KidsPost's sports opinion column and is an author of sports novels for kids.

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