The League

Peter Schaffer
NFL Agent

Peter Schaffer

Agent and professor of sports law

Vick, Clearly?

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One of my favorite expressions is that "we love to live our lives on a strict set of double standards."

Michael Vick and Barry Bonds present interesting public relations dilemmas for their respective professional leagues. Should they be afforded the right to a second chance at gainful employment?

Let's take these two cases separately. Michael Vick has plead guilty and is serving his debt to society for criminal and immoral conduct. Upon his release, he will have satisfied that debt and should be given the opportunity to seek employment and re-build his personal and professional life. Additionally it will be incumbent upon him to accept responsibility for his actions and acknowledge his mistakes. He must also prove to everyone that he will never do it again.

The caveat surrounding this scenario is that the degree society believes him will vary in accordance to how he handles the adversity. Generally speaking, we grant a longer "leash" to those who admit their wrongdoings and show a genuine sense of remorse. Those who demonstrate human frailty garner more compassion than those who try to hide behind the armor of celebrity. Just look at Andy Petite and Jason Giambi. Vick is on this course.

In MLB, Bonds is heading in the opposite direction. Even in America there isn't much empathy for those who seemingly hold themselves above everyone else. The arrogance of Bonds and Clemens place them in a different category than Vick as far as forgiveness is concerned. They have made their road to a second chance, if that is what they truly desire, that much harder to attain.

Bonds' legal woes are ongoing. His trial, recently continued again for appellate questions, remains an uncertainty. He hasn't acknowledged, or taken any responsibly for his actions or for the damage that he has done to the game and himself. His transgressions are quite different then an off-field dog fighting operation that had no impact on the integrity of the game. In Bonds' case, if any of the allegations are proven correct his indelible legacy as a tainted player might prove too difficult for any team to overcome.

At the same time, Vick's transgressions involve the integrity of a person. Bonds' transgressions involve the integrity a game which, ironically, has allowed the alleged transgression to get completely out of hand. In some ways, baseball has created its own stage for the high drama of A-Rod, McGuire, Sosa, Palmeiro, Giambi... the list goes on and on. And for a sport so rich in statistics, it seems as though many of their best players may deserve an asterisk next to their career numbers. Think about it, for various reasons the all-time leading MLB hitter (Rose), newly crowned home-run king (Bonds) and one of the top strikeout artists in history (Clemens) may not enter the Hall! This does not bode well for the purity of baseball. Moreover, isn't it a bit hypocritical for MLB to be condemning actions that it made little effort to control?

One last factor to consider is age. Bonds is at the end of his career. The best he could do at this juncture is DH, surviving solely to build on his home-run record. This is a pretty selfish motive, which will not garner much fan respect. Vick is 29 and should be coming into his prime. It's conceivable that he could play at least another six seasons at a very high level -- Kurt Warner just completed a Super Bowl/Pro Bowl season at age 38! We should all want to root that on.

If Vick reforms and makes the proper amends to his fans, to the NFL and to the public at large and accepts responsibility for his improper conduct, then he deserves of a second chance. Any new contract he signs will certainly have the appropriate legal protections to either punish or terminate him for any minute transgression. He'll know he is on a very short, no pun intended, leash.

If he is successful as a person and a player, the PR benefits to the league and himself should far outweigh any interim negative impact. The key will be what he does with his second chance. Vick's return could make for a Hollywood success story that catapults him to even greater heights than he could've reached had he stayed clean. I don't think Bonds will ever get such a chance. The NFL, as the greatest professional sports league, must and should be the leader in giving players who have earned it a second chance. This is the perfect opportunity to do so.

By Peter Schaffer  |  March 4, 2009; 3:32 AM ET  | Category:  Atlanta Falcons , Michael Vick , Peter Schaffer , Steroids Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Comments

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Bonds is a cheat. But physically, he only harmed himself. But Vick's un-ashamed cruelty to animals will never, ever be forgiven.

Posted by: tifoso1 | March 4, 2009 12:23 PM

tifoso1: That statement, 'Bonds is a cheat' is problematic on so many fronts. Let me share just a couple with you. First, your statement reveals more about you than it does about Bonds. If you decided to take Creatine to enhance muscle recovery, etc., are you a cheat? How about vitamins or the countless other "products" you can get from GNC to enhance this, or speed up that.

Has it ever occurred to you that the extent of Bonds cheating may be the same as some guy who wants to quickly look like the guy on the cover of Mens Fitness?

The fact that you assume that his motives were to cheat baseball might reveal more about what YOU would do in a similar situation.

I doubt seriously a guy as talented, and arrogant as Bonds thinks he needs anything to 'help' him play baseball.

What I don't doubt is that at age 36, he looked in the mirror; didn't like what he saw, and decided to find a faster way to look and feel better.

That aint a crime, man. Thats human.

Posted by: PC14 | March 4, 2009 1:14 PM

Please...you spin what Bonds has done as if it wasn't outright illegal, which it was, should testimony prove true. Given the case that prosecutors have complied against him, the burden of proof has shifted to him, and public opinion seems squarely against him being 'innocent'.

The point of the article is that the man has tried from the outset to hide the truth from the public and from baseball. Both men are guilty of breaking rules that apply evenly to everyone - only one has shown any penitence.

Any man who does not ask for forgiveness will receive even less than requested.

Posted by: spqr2k | March 4, 2009 1:33 PM

What a stupid question. Bonds, if guilty, is a liar and a cheat - in a stupid GAME. You're comparing that to a sadistic animal abuser? What's next, a comparison of Manson vs. Madoff?

Posted by: anng1 | March 4, 2009 2:03 PM

Every red blooded American deserves a second chance, Vick didn't murder, molest, rape, or committ armed robbery, he killed some dogs. DOGS!! Not humans. Yes wrong, but nothing to have to be stripped bare and pay for, for the rest of your life. What a stupid artice and question to even come up with who are what the hell are you? Get out of your Ivory White Tower!!!

Posted by: 72Redskins | March 4, 2009 2:06 PM

Someone sure loves defending dog fighting....

Bonds is a safer bet again since he "hurt" himself and no one else. Regardless of the species involved Vick is a murderer. Facts is facts.

Posted by: theobserver4 | March 4, 2009 2:54 PM

At the end of the day, Vick only apologized after perpetually lying to everyone -- Arthur Blank, the NFL and most important, his fans. He should be suspended for at least a full season if not banned from the league outright. The NFL doesn't need him -- he needs the NFL. He squandered talent and millions of dollars so he could satisfy a primitive desire to watch dogs kill each other. No respective company would ever hirer him and the NFL would be very smart to stay far, far away from him.

As for Barry, who cares! Let him go crawl under a rock. He'll never get into the Hall of Fame. He's a liar and a cheat and his home runs should be stricken from the record books along with all others who have admitted (or in McGuire's case, are highly suspect) to using performance enhancing drugs.

Charles Barkley said it best -- athletes are not role models. Entertainers is what they are and the faster the public understands this, the faster the hero worship will fade away.

Posted by: lance_dc7777 | March 4, 2009 3:54 PM

that's precisely the issue with Vick! He brutally murdered these dogs. And to dismiss it as unimportant because they weren't humans (who, of course, are the cause of this brutality!) is absurd, when you think about how important animals are to so many Americans.
but that's the savagery some people have,as well as the apologists who excuse his behaviour.

Posted by: obx2004 | March 4, 2009 4:31 PM

Yes, Vick has pled guilty for his involvement in dog fighting, but only when insurmountable evidence was against him. Bonds took steroids, which in the end is only about a game... whatever. He may be kept out of the Hall, he may be ostricized by the sporting community, but he didn't physically hurt anybody or anything. Vick did, I will give him the credit that is due for finally owning up to it and serving his time, and I am sure that some team (like Dallas, or Oakland) will bring him on and pay him bank. I'll never give him the respect that is due to someone of his talent and I think it's wrong for anyone to just look past his crimes without mitigating it with his future.

Posted by: Kings_Rook | March 4, 2009 4:58 PM

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