The League

Peter Schaffer
NFL Agent

Peter Schaffer

Agent and professor of sports law

Vick Is Still Radioactive


I have written many times over the course of the past two years that Mike Vick and similarly situated athletes who have made mistakes (some moral, some legal and some both) are deserving of a second chance at a professional career after. This second chance should only come after they have paid their debts to society. To err is most definitely human. The bigger, more complex Madison Avenue question is what ancillary marketing benefits should be bestowed upon such players upon their professional return. Do these players deserve the reward of marketing and endorsement agreements, and should companies utilize these now-fallen players to push their products?

When a player or any person makes a mistake and pays for it, as Vick did with his two year incarceration and loss of a $100 million dollar contract, and then makes amends for his actions by acknowledging responsibility, showing genuine remorse, proving to all that a valuable lesson(s) was learned and showing to all, most importantly his family, teammates and employer, that he is a better and changed person, then that person is deserving of a second chance. It is only a couple of fortnights into his Eagle career, but Vick has on the surface appeared to be a reformed model citizen, and is on his way back into society's good graces. We can all hope for his, and the Eagles' sake, that this pattern of conduct continues both on and off of the field.

There is, however, a difference between allowing a person to be gainfully employed and to reap all of the rewards of his celebrity status. Endorsements are privileges and not rights for professional athletes, they are earned and not given. The ability to be paid substantial sums of money and to generate vast amounts of positive publicity through local and national campaigns comes through a combination of exemplary physical performance, stellar character, a pretty face, and an ability to speak articulately.

Endorsements are not a question of forgiveness, they are question of economics. Large corporations look for players from all sports to represent their companies and be the face of their brands. Does a company want a Lebron James or a Dennis Rodman - the good person vs. the bad boy image - as the spokesperson for their product. Are they looking for quality of character, or shock value? Is their brand Barry Sanders or Deion Sanders? Historically, the sport marketing big boys such as Nike, Gatorade, UA , etc. have tended towards the clean cut solid images of the Barry Sanders and Jerry Rices of professional sports. And while I believe that these companies have positive social agendas they also want to push, they are motivated by selling their product and associating with positive people with clean public images. All these companies have moral clauses in the contracts which allow them to terminate the relationship with their athlete for social and legal indiscretions.

There is no doubt that Commissioner Roger Goodell took a cautious and well reasoned approach toward allowing Michael Vick to be gainfully employed by giving him a second chance to play in the NFL. However, the corporations that choose to invest millions of dollars in NFL player endorsement deals (especially during times of economic crisis) have the ability to carefully select from the thousands of players available, an elite and fortunate handful that are worthy of representing their companies. Given that only a small number of players will actually receive these endorsement opportunities, the corporate selection process will be limited to a select group of players that have achieved both star level success on the field, and impeccable character off the field. It is obvious that this small group of elite players should not include an ex-con recently released from prison, currently fulfilling community relations obligations as penance for his crimes, and effectively still in the rehabilitation process.

The reality is that Michael Vick is a member of the Philadelphia Eagles 53 man roster and is playing good football. The other reality is that he remains radioactive. He did not shoplift, he tortured animals. It is going to take more than three football games and two public appearances for Vick to regain any value as a product spokesperson. This is not an impossible task, but it will take a concerted and consistent effort on his part for a sustained amount of time before a quality company will look to him to help sell their wares. Hopefully Vick will continue along this path but he remains a long way away from just doing it.

By Peter Schaffer  |  October 2, 2009; 12:03 AM ET  | Category:  Michael Vick , Philadelphia Eagles Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Vick May Kill Dog Fighting | Next: Vick Can't Just Do It


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I don't think there is a company on this planet so stupid as to help Vick make it back to "where he should be". The Eagles coach may have hired Vick to be buddies with his own going-to-jail sons. Until Michael Vick has a cattle prod run up his rectum and turned on JUST FOR STARTERS there is nothing about that gutter trash or the Eagles I will not boycott as being too vile for human consumption.

Posted by: vickie105 | October 3, 2009 6:36 PM

Thank you Mr. Schafer for your insightful article. I too, believe that Vick has a steep road before convincing top companies to trust him and his image enough to go back to making mega $ for endorsements. However, unlike Vickie105, I do not believe that torture is really required for remorseful, convicted people WHO ARE TRYING TO MAKE AMENDS. To vickie105, I find your comments horrific, disturbing and pitiful. Unless you are willing to apply the same actions to all criminal (Madoff, Rove, serial killers,etc) then perhaps you, dear Animal Lover, would better serve yourself and the animals you so clearly love (as do I) by finding and convicting the other dog fighting participants and not trying to continuously persecute the ONE that has already served his debt to the society that will continue to judge and convict him. It is truly a sad day that you place animal life above that of humans. Yes, he was wrong for BANKROLLING the operation, but isn't serving prison time and loosing millions in salary; publicly speaking out against dog fighting, and sponsoring anti-cruelty shelters a good start towards "amends"?

Posted by: chifan73 | October 4, 2009 2:09 AM

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