The League

Gene Grabowski

Gene Grabowski

A Senior Vice President of Levick Strategic Communications, is an authority on communications strategies for crisis matters.

Building a New Image

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One of the things that people have brought up with Michael Vick -- and rightfully so -- is that unlike some other crisis-striken athletes, Vick never hurt a person. Yet when news of his dog fighting ring first broke out, he didn't have any defenders. There's a reason for that: People connect with their animals and view them as the equivalent of infants, completely dependent on others rather than themselves.

That's why what Vick did cut so deep at American heartstrings. He took advantage of defenseless animals, and it was almost as if he had hurt a human instead of an animal.

Because of that reaction, and Vick's past, the NFL can't reinstate Vick ... yet. If they commit to bringing him back and Vick does something disrespectful, they will have painted themselves into a corner.

The ball is now in Vick's court. So what does he have to do to make it back to the profession he loves? Surprisingly, he may not have to do that much. If he speaks too much before he's seen, he's in trouble. Instead, we need to have video of him on the job. He needs to be seen very seriously going about his work in his new hourly construction position, and he can't work alone. He has to be seen working with his colleagues on the site, literally working his way back into our good graces.

I would actually argue that working on a construction site is a big advantage for Vick. It allows him to be seen working shoulder-to-shoulder in teamwork with other construction workers. He can prove that it's ok to be seen with Michael Vick, which will slowly convince the public that he's a decent human being.

The next thing he needs to do is to hold back what he says about his personal situation. He should talk about hoping to play the game he loves again when all of this is over, but he needs to assure everyone that it's too early to talk about his future. Right now, he's working his way into being back into acceptable society, trying to move forward with his life.

If he says that and he proves he's working hard in that team environment, he's got a great shot at reinstatement, and we may see him carrying a football again. But the key, in our visual society, is the first part of the equation. He needs to be shown doing his penance, lifting I-beams and cinder blocks on the construction site, not barbells in the gym.

By Gene Grabowski  |  May 20, 2009; 6:24 PM ET  | Category:  Atlanta Falcons , Michael Vick Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Who Even Wants Him? | Next: Suspend, but Reinstate

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