Barack Obama And The Michael Vick Double Standard

There is an uproar and outrage over President Obama’s comments to Philadelphia Eagle’s owner Jeff Lurie regarding the team giving Michael Vick a second chance after he completed his federal prison sentence for running a dog fighting ring. Criticism has come from animal rights activists and political pundits who never miss a chance to criticize the president regardless the subject or issue being discussed.

Tucker Carlson, a substitute political commentator for Fox News went so far as to say Vick should have been executed for his involvement in dog fighting. Carlson is a fervent animal rights activist, but certainly doesn’t understand the nature of the law. There is no question that for animal lovers, Vick’s crimes were as hideous as is possible, but the law does not recommend the death penalty for Vick’s crime. The Eagle’s quarterback served his time and paid his debt to society, so calls for execution are extreme and contrary to the tenets of America’s criminal justice system.

The question though is not whether Vick deserves execution, but whether he deserved a second chance after serving his sentence. President Obama condemned Vick for his crimes, but was right in being grateful for Vick’s second chance to become a productive citizen. The primary purpose of Obama’s call to Lurie was to discuss and praise the Eagle’s organization for installing wind turbines in an effort to promote green energy.

Many Americans do not think it is appropriate that Vick was given a second chance and it reflects a long-standing belief that convicted felons are not worthy of the same rights as all Americans. A valid question is; would Vick have been given a second chance if he wasn’t a star athlete? The answer is most certainly no based on hiring practices across the country, and it is especially true now that employers can easily make background checks on applicants in a matter of minutes. Unfortunately, employers will find more of their applicants have a criminal history because such a large number of Americans are either in the penal system or are ex-convicts.

America imprisons more people than any country on Earth, and as the ex-convicts re-enter society they find it increasingly difficult to find employment because of their convictions. Based on statistics from the Department of Justice, the number of Americans incarcerated, on parole, or on probation is one in every thirty-one adults, or about 7.3 million Americans. The greatest percentages of arrests were for consensual (victimless) crimes. Victimless crimes are currently illegal activities that result in no harm or damage to another person or individual’s property and include such activities as recreational drug use, gambling, prostitution, pornography, drunk driving, and traffic violations. Juvenile crimes are not included in the 7.3 million figure and make up less than 5% of the overall correction system population.

If those figures are not alarming, consider that 1 in every 45 Americans is on parole or probation and of that figure, the number of star athletes on parole or probation is infinitesimal. For convicted felons who have served their time like Michael Vick, their chances of finding any employment are increasingly slim and it explains why the recidivism rate is so high among ex-convicts; that is exactly what the prison industry wants. The cost of incarcerating the prison population in America is in excess of $68 billion annually, and it explains why unions representing correction officers wield such power and influence over legislatures in every state in the Union. In a state like California, the cost to house and maintain the prison population far exceeds the education budget, and it explains why there is a push to privatize the prison system. It also explains why lobbyists pressure legislators to vote against bills that would offer education and rehabilitation to parolees so they can find gainful employment once they are out of the correction system.

The way the system works now, a parolee without an education or adequate counseling will be back in prison within 1 to 3 years because they cannot find employers willing to give them a second chance. Employers like Wal-Mart or McDonald’s will not hire ex-convicts and one has to wonder if there is collusion with the prison industry to keep felons in the system.

Perhaps President Obama is setting a precedent by thanking Lurie for giving Michael Vick a second chance at being a productive citizen. With so many Americans in the correction system for victimless crimes, there is a need for reform to delineate between dangerous criminals and those who harm no one. There should not be a double-standard for star athletes, entertainers, or politicians who are hired as soon as their debt to society has been paid and regular citizens who still can contribute to society but have no fame or special skills.

The man who was caught with a prostitute should have the same opportunity as the man who killed dogs because they didn’t perform, but that is not the case. There is no equity in the system as it stands, and the way it works now the person who is not famous is most likely going to end up back in prison because they have no prospects for employment or the chance to contribute to society.

Americans love their athletes, and Michael Vick is a talented football player, but he is no better than the man convicted of recreational drug use. However, Vick got his second chance as he should have because he paid his debt to society according to the law. If Vick had been a clerk at Wal-Mart, he would not be given a second chance and the likelihood of him ending up back in prison because of a lack of a job would be all but certain. His crime, although atrocious, certainly did not warrant calls for execution, but if he were not a famous athlete, he may as well have been executed because the rest of his life would have been spent in prison.

Americans are quick to forgive celebrities for their crimes and happy to see them prosper when they are given a second, third, or fourth opportunity to become productive. It is high time that Americans afford the same opportunities to regular citizens who are convicted of crimes whether victimless or not. President Obama has set a precedent that lawmakers should follow by passing legislation that enables every ex-convict the opportunity at a second chance once they have paid their debt to society; although with so much money to be made by keeping the prisons full, that likelihood is remote at best.

Image: Politico.com

28 Replies to “Barack Obama And The Michael Vick Double Standard”

  1. it is common practice that athletes and celebrities in general do not have to worry about reemployment. In a way it is a sad comment on our society that those people get favored treatment over the common people. But that is prevalent throughout the world and not just here.

    the cost of housing prisoners is prohibitive obviously. There is no doubt the jail terms for people who have been busted for minor crimes like prostitution, drug use, and gambling etc. the one place where I draw the line is drunk driving.

    I would like to see industries spring up that hire only parolees and ex-cons. In Michigan where I come from they have companies that hire handicapped people for various jobs such as packaging supporting other companies. We are our own worst enemy when it comes to putting people back in prison.

    I wonder where Tucker Carlson stands when it comes to the over 4000 Americans, and over 100,000 Iraqis that were caused to be killed by George W. Bush. I pretty much consider that crime slightly worse than killing dogs

  2. The St. Louis Rams have at least one team member who is responsible for the death of another person. Not only did he not ever go to jail, he was kept on as a playing member of the team. Michael Vick’s ridiculous jail sentence makes a mockery of any notion of justice, PETA fanatics notwithstanding.

  3. RMuse, sorry I have to disagree with you on this. :( Micheal Vick’s crime was not “victimless” Dogs/Sentient beings were killed. It is a well known fact that animal abusers go on to abuse, women, children, the elderly & homeless.
    I don’t think he should be given his “hero” job again.
    Anyone else getting out of prison has to start from the bottom and Vic should be no exception.
    I also have to disagree with you on “DUI” being a victimless crime. Most people who are caught DUI will continue even when their licenses are taken away. Its only a matter of time until a innocent person is killed or maimed by these people.
    I’m not happy POTUS said this :(
    He is a dog lover himself. I wonder if he wasn’t aware of the charges & controversy around Vic? Not trying to make excuses for POTUS.
    But it just seems odd to me.

  4. Shiva in LA there is a prison that is a animal Shelter. This prison/animal shelter is changing lives. The prisoners are going to school to be Vet assistants or learning grooming skills. The animals are being very well taken care of until they find a “4ever” home.
    Of course this wouldn’t be the answer for someone like Vick who should never own a pet again.
    But as far as training for Prisoners to be trained for a job I like this idea. If all goes well they will have 501c status by next June. I think its called Pen Pals animal shelter, something like that.

  5. “There is no question that for animal lovers, Vick’s crimes were as hideous as is possible, but the law does not recommend the death penalty for Vick’s crime. The Eagle’s quarterback served his time and paid his debt to society, so calls for execution are extreme and contrary to the tenets of America’s criminal justice system.”

    Rmuse, you say that because you are a speciest person. Replace the dogs with Blacks or with women, and you’ll see that your position doesn’t stand. Being speciest is like being racist or misogynic. It was once the law to own Blacks, do you think the people who decided to fight slavery were radicals and extremists? If yes, then it means that in those times you would have been on the wrong side, and I would have been on the right one for I certainly would have fought to abolish slavery or at least work with the very active activists in order to do so. Dogs are full-fledge persons of another specie and to be cruel or kill them is no small thing.

  6. My comment is that this issue is a lot more complex than it appears on the service when you bring race into the equation. What Vick did was merciless and cruel by any standards. Vick got caught up in himself and a racket. His downfall was also dramatic. He totally fell from grace, lost his fortune, his freedom and the love of family, friends, teammates and America. He served his time in prison. He paid his debt to society according to our system. If we are to honor our justice system, then Tucker’s comments were out of place. Blacks for years as human beings were treated like animals but in the worse kind of way. Often dogs were used to hunt them down and torture and contain them whether they were innocent or not. There’s always been a perception in the Black community that whites treat their pets better than Blacks. There are many double standards that are protected by laws in this country. If Black professional athletes or entertainers carry fire arms for protection when they’ve received threats to themselves, their families or their property,…. if they’re in the wrong state they go to prison and become convicted felons. But those belonging to the RNA in certain areas can proudly and boldly carry their guns to political rallies near the President of the US and other congressional members. Sarah Palin can proudly hunt down innocent animals just for the glory of the kill with millions watching. I doubt if she was going to actually take it to her freezer for eating. She does display her kills in her home. Many of Vick’s victims are being well taken care of now. The reason the President made the call is hardly mentioned.
    The fact that he had compassion for someone who is trying to turn their life around and was given another chance is a concept. If this second chance does not work, I’m sure America will crucify him. Eyes will be watching him for the rest of his life. That’s a lot of pressure he has to live with. If he can bring something to society in spite of it, I wish him the best. In terms of Tucker, it’s been disturbing for me every time he opens his mouth. He always jumps at any and every opportunity to be critical of the President and he has done so for some time since before the 2008 election! I respect the President when he demonstrates the courage to weigh in on these controversial issues. He’s done so much for America in his brief 2 year administration and he just gets no real credit for anything from anyone hardly. That’s sad to me.

  7. Why would he replace dogs with blacks or women?

    In our court system your punishment is over when you serve your time. Do you base your assumptions on once cruel to animals always going to be cruel?

  8. I found Vick’s crimes abhorrent, and I totally agree that he should never own another pet. That said, what would be the upside of continuing to punish him after he paid his debt to society? Of course, he is luckier than the majority of ex-convicts who have a difficult time reintegrating into society. The high rate of imprisonment in this country is a significant result of recidivism, which itself is a result of continuing to punish people after they have served their time. Some of the people criticizing Obama are just using this as another opportunity to do what they already do–endlessly put him down. I bet they don’t know that his predecessor signed a Second Chances bill for people getting out of jail. They would probably dismiss it, because it doesn’t square with their one-dimensional views of liberals and conservatives. In any case, it is one of the few things GW did that I agree with, and the day that this country as a whole acquires a more enlightened attitude about ex-convicts will be a plus for the country as a whole. People who are gainfully employed and law-abiding, even after being convicted and freed, are a blessing instead of a burden.

  9. Two issues: One: Given the depth and breadth of Vick’s barbarism, I doubt this monster is redeemable. Two: This is the second time Obama has stepped out of bounds publicly to cover for a black man, the first being Harvard professor Gates. In both instances, such interference by a sitting President was inappropriate, unwarranted and showed bad judgement.

  10. Everyone is a speciesist person, including Vegans, unless they clean off (without harming them) the bugs that are normally found on the vegetable matter they consume. But they don’t, do they? These bugs (and other forms of life) are killed before the food is eaten. The term speciesist is meaningless – everyone assigns different values for life.

  11. I disagree. On the one hand, Vick’s redemption seems genuine. People can redeem themselves.

    On the second, nobody says a word about white presidents pardoning or standing up for white folks. It’s ridiculous to accuse Obama of something like this simply because he’s black – and let’s face it, that’s the only reason you’re saying it.

  12. Hi Crystal
    I didn’t say Vick’s crime was victimless. I’m a Zen Buddhist and agree that dogs and all creatures are sentient beings. It is the law that doesn’t consider animals as victims otherwise we could imprison Sarah Palin for slaying animals.

    Personally, killing or abusing any animal is tantamount to murder regardless of the law. I also think DUI is not victimless, but the law says if no one is hurt, it is victimless. the references were according to the law’s interpretation, not mine.

    Thank you for bringing that up, but I’m on your side with this.

  13. Ah, Rmuse. You would of course tackle this one:-) You’ve forced me to remember to appreciate the necessity of the notion of redemption when I didn’t want to. It is part of the liberal platform and one that I have trouble with when it comes to certain crimes.

    I don’t believe that all criminals can be redeemed, especially not sociopaths. However, once a person has paid their debt to society, we are supposed to support the notion of redemption (if they prove themselves willing and able to do the work, etc). I do like that the President reminded us of this inherent American value. I hate that he did it over this guy. But perhaps that was the point.

    I agree with your point completely re how celebrities are treated differently and it would be nice if all who served their debt were offered the same chance. Our celebrities are offered the same privileges as royalty and that violates the foundation of this country that all men are equals in the eyes of the law. No matter- it is reality.

  14. Here we have another situation of abuse by a “Hero”! We are all too quick to forgive him…!
    Its not a matter of race.
    It is a crime to abuse animals! And it is a PROVEN fact in Crime profilers that these abusers can go on to abuse others weaker than them.
    Its all about POWER.
    http://www.pet-abuse.com/pages/abuse_connection.php
    Now Sarah Jones wrote about Abuse of power and got all kinds of crap for it and this is almost the same except Vick killed his Dogs, considered by some people to be a “lesser” species. So now he’s done his time & everything is hunky dory. NOT!
    You can call me a PETA person (I’m not) but people abusing their animals whether Vic killing & fighting his dogs or a Republican Gubernatorial candidate whose mule was his first “Girlfriend” (wink,wink) its ABUSE!
    And will be repeated, next time with a perceived “Weaker” person, ELDERLY, CHILD, WOMAN, HOMELESS person, b/c these people prey on weaker beings!
    People can speak up about abuse. Animals can’t.
    Restoring him to his “Hero” football Macho man status does not help him. As far as President Obama comment or opinion on this well, it is just that HIS opinion, and last I heard… he is entitled to it. I don’t agree but that is why this is AMERICA.
    I’ve heard other Presidents have STUPID opinions on other things. Unfortunately since POTUS is BLACK/HALF WHITE he is attacked by racists every-time he opens his mouth.

  15. As a general response, I have to say that the article references are not my personal beliefs. I cited the law. All being are sentient in my Buddhist practice. The article was about double-standards. Blacks, women etc are not the issue. If I were the dictator, I would change the statutes, but I am not. Consensual (victimless) crimes are dictated by the law.

    I agree that minorities are imprisoned and stuck in a system they have little chance of escaping. I agree that the law needs to be changed. I do not agree that President Obama is giving Blacks any special preference. The article was not about race.

    Please, when reading any article here or any other site, look for the thesis.
    If the article didn’t articulate my point I am sorry. On the other hand, the title used the little buzz-word “Double-Standard” and that is all the article was about. Forgive me for being unclear.

  16. You’re right, Crystal that people who abuse animals are found to be more likely to abuse people, especially children who enjoy hurting animals.

    This is what bothers me as well. I simply can’t trust a person who has demonstrated such violence. However, I asked myself if a rapist served his time in prison, would I think he/she deserved a second chance?

    To be honest, I don’t know. I vary from the typical liberal stance here, perhaps because of my background in psychology, but I don’t believe (based on empirical evidence) that certain types of criminals are likely to reform.

    Are we suggesting that redemption is available to some but not others? Or that certain crimes don’t merit a second chance?

    And then there are my personal feelings about anyone who abuses creatures weaker than themselves…

  17. Wow. Can you keep race out of this? It has no place here unless you’re going to divide the nation up into jelly beans of colors and any time a colored person stands up for another colored person you’ll accuse them of doing so because of their race but when the white beans do it, it will go by unnoticed. By the way, check out Bush’s record for pardoning white monsters.

    As for your thought that this guy is not redeemable, I can’t say I don’t harbor the same thoughts, but it isn’t for us to say — wisely, the system isn’t set up so that the mass people can judge someone redeemed or not redeemed with no knowledge of the evidence.

  18. Sarah, I agree with you. I think people especially Serial rapists or abusers unless they have INTENSE psychological counseling which is not usually available in prisons….I don’t believe they will change.
    That’s why they have sex offender registries. To keep a eye on them. Vick was a serial abuser. He killed several dogs and abused others by fighting them and training them to fight. Usually when they train dogs to fight they will (Not saying HE did this) usually adopt or steal family pets or adopt kittens & puppies to train the dogs to fight. These poor animals end up dead. Crimes of power/abuse of power are addicting.
    I would like to say sure, all who do their time, have redeemed themselves. Makes for a happy ending, no?
    Sadly that is not the case.
    Now for other “crimes” certain offenders can be put in a program like above (Pen Pals Shelter) and it is life changing for the prisoner as he learns to care about someone other than himself and give unconditionally & gets that love back while caring for stray dogs & cats and gets a online Vet asst. cert. so he/she can seek employment when they get out. A program like this IS NOT suitable for someone like Vick who didn’t bother to get his dogs any Vet treatment, and practiced abuse on his animals.
    Its very, very hard. I would trust one of the guys participating in the “Pen Pals Shelter” program over a guy like Vick.
    When a person has compassion for other beings he is less likely to commit a crime against others.
    JMO. That’s how I see it.

  19. You were perfectly clear and we do have a double standard when it comes to celebrities.

    I think it’s easy to get drawn off on the emotional issues which are so different from the law, as you point out but yes, it should be remembered that you are not advocating for this position, you’re discussing the law.

    I give you kudos for bravely wading into this one and I thought your point was spot on. Your post forced me to evaluate some of my own beliefs as well, because while your main point was re the celebrity privilege and how redemption should apply to all criminals equally, the sentence re “the question is whether he should…” got me questioning my value system in general on this topic.

  20. Rmuse, I think your point was clear. Double standards is the issue on one level or another. The question is not whether Vick did a horrible crime. He did. I think everyone is in agreement about that. I love dogs! Does Vick deserve a second chance? The law says yes he does. Most of society says no. But I don’t believe that you can really leave race out of this event. You’re talking about two black men being criticized by one white man who contributes often to Fox faux news. Tucker has always been anti Obama. Obama is a spiritual man who tries his best to operate with character. He’s also a sport’s enthusiast. He has a right to his opinion on this. It’s almost as if he should not speak on anything to be safe. But of course they would complain about that as well. Vick is a convicted felon who has served his time and paid a hefty price to society. I hope that he has been humbled and will no longer abuse anyone or anything. He has the whole world watching. Sometimes second chances are a gift that can bring benefit. Hopefully that will be the case in this instance.
    I would like to ask Tucker, when Blacks were treated with such cruelty, or any other race for that matter, should the perpetrators be executed? Or does that rule only apply to dogs? What about the thousands of innocent people killed in Iraq without provocation? Is there someone who should be executed for those horrible deaths from a moral perspective? Women who have been raped and abused often live in the fear of a repeat experience because those who harmed them have served very light sentences. Do they deserve a second chance before Vick? Double standards is the name of the game. Thanks for this post! Bottom line….Tucker shut up! There was not enough sensation taking place in the news with Obama in Hawaii. So here we go again with another distraction.

  21. That’s a common characteristic shared by people who think like you do. That characteristic is an attempt to assign different free speech rights to different people in our society. The president has as much of a right to say what he thinks/believes on subjects as you do.

    I’d like to know why you think that President Obama should have to restrict his speech to subjects/topics you approve of? What’s the difference between the president speaking about offering jobs to ex-felons, and GWB’s comment that he wouldn’t mind America being a dictatorship as long as he could be the dictator? IMHO, neither the president’s comments on Dr. Gates or Michael Vick are as dangerous to our democracy as a POTUS revealing he’d embrace a dictatorship if only he were the dictator.

    The lie that President Obama is a racist is a lie, and began with Glenn Beck. You forget that Beck admitted that he was wrong earlier this year and bring the lie her to try to restrict President Obama’s right to free speech. President Obama never called the office involved nor the BPD racists. He only criticized the handling of the case.

    Furthermore, as a black person, I know for a fact that a person of color, a person of Jewish descent, an immigrant, an atheist, a gay or lesbian person will be vilified for saying the SAME thing that a straight, white, Christian male/female says.

    La Barbera, Reed, Buchanan, Limbaugh, Beck, Baier, Judge Napolitano, Palin, Peter King, Lindsay Graham, Jim Demint, Pam Geller, Newt Gingrich, Chuck Norris, and others say offensive things about others on a daily basis, but you never object to them saying it.

    I wonder why?

  22. I cannot find it in my heart to ever forgive Michael Vick for what he did to those dogs. It is inexcusable, indefensible, and irredemable, and I will never support a team that has him playing for them (which of course means that the moron that owns my beloved Redskins will pick him up at the end of the season, because that is just my luck).

    There is a special place in Niflheim for him.

  23. I thought the article was abundantly clear. Double standard for celebrities when it comes to forgiving felonies (although one could argue other groups such as the rich and the politicians also own that double standard). But the main point of the article is giving those who have paid their dues a second chance. Unfortunately, many in the public and states (who deny the basic right of voting to former felons) don’t see it that way.

    Hope I got that right.

  24. They are one and the same. There is no “slightly worse” case of murder. There should be no differentiation between killing dogs or killing humans. If you are capable of the former, you are also capable of the latter. Vick is a mentally sick individual to have been able to perform these sadistic acts AT ALL, much less for 2 years and not know that “it was wrong.”

  25. All animal lovers and anyone with a shred of decency should boycott all Eagles games. I refuse to finance Mike Vick. He should be forever barred from playing any professional sports.

    Did Mike Vick give dogs a second chance as they lay there whimpering for mercy? No, all dogs who didn’t perform well were executed in a brutal manner.
    Take a look at photos of the mercy Mike Vick showed the dogs.
    http://www.animalrightsblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/11/loveofdogs31.jpg
    http://www.jollybengali.net/theconfluence/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/gypsy.jpg

    The Bible says, “You will reap what you sow” which basically means what goes around comes around. He should receive the same kind of mercy. He should stop being such a cry baby as if he is a victim and take what he has done like a man. Mike Vick will not change but find a way to continue dog fighting under the radar of officials. I say this because for years he participated in dog fighting and only stopped because he was caught. Even his own Father urged him to stop in 2001 and he refused. If a Son will not listen to his own Father, then who will he listen to?
    Boddie told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that around 2001, Vick was staging dogfights in the garage of the family’s home in Newport News and kept fighting dogs in the family’s backyard, including injured ones which the father nursed back to health. Boddie said his son had been urged to not engage in the activity, but continued. He stated: “This is Mike’s thing. And he knows it.”

    If Obama wants Mike Vick to have a second chance then let the government give it to him. Recruit him in the military so he can observe REAL men and women doing REAL work and not for the absurd amounts Mike gets for tossing a ball around.

  26. “President Obama has set a precedent that lawmakers should follow by passing legislation that enables every ex-convict the opportunity at a second chance once they have paid their debt to society; although with so much money to be made by keeping the prisons full, that likelihood is remote at best.”

    1) There have to be restrictions on what “second chances” people get. We don’t give a convicted child molester a second chance to work in a day care, for instance.

    2) Being a pro athlete is not just about athletic skill. This is an entertainment postion and one is hired on numerous criteria including marketability and draw. Do I blame the team for hiring him – no – I blame every fan that watches the games or in any way supports his marketability.

  27. Would we be so quick to forgive Vick if he were not a star athlete. What if he were a clerk at Safeway not a star athlete would people have been so in to saying he should get a second chance? I highly doubt that. It is the hero symbol we place on star athletes.

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