Vernon Holman | Staff Writer
Michael Vick is renowned for his abilities as a professional quarterback; so one might think that Raleigh citizens would view it as an honor for him to be the keynote speaker at the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce’s annual Evening of Champions, a ceremony that celebrates the achievements of local athletes. However, due to Vick’s past mistakes (Vick pleaded guilty to and served 21 months in prison for bankrolling dogfights) many people are lobbying against Vick’s upcoming speech and have created a petition to have him banned from the event.
The main driving force behind the petition is The Positive Pit Bull, a non-profit located in Raleigh which according to its website is “dedicated to repairing the reputation of the American Pit Bull Terrier, rehabilitating ones who are in need and keeping as many as possible out of the shelters through education, positive training and socialization.” In its petition posted on change.org, The Positive Pit Bull stated, “Animal welfare advocates are more than disappointed…they’re downright outraged that the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce has chosen a convicted felon who tortured, abused and killed countless innocent dogs through his Bad Newz Kennels compound to speak at an event that celebrates and honors local star athletes.” The petition continues with, “Our chamber is supposed to represent the climate of our community and uphold the values that we hold dear.”
Now, this seems like a contradiction. A key value of the United States is that we respect of our legal system. It is a system designed to reform criminals in a way that is humane and not nearly as obscene as stoning or hanging— ways in which some foreign countries handle criminals. The Positive Pit Bull further reinforces this contradiction by saying, “No time served (or impressive football plays played) will ever erase the images and words we all read about his actions.” To be fair, this is true as nothing in the universe is legitimately able to absolve anyone of their actions, but we use ways of punishment for retribution that is eventually supposed to end in forgiveness. If forgiveness never comes, what then is the point of the justice system that we value so dearly in the United States?
The state of North Carolina is located on the Bible Belt, a Bible that preaches the benefits of forgiveness. This is also a common trend among many other religions. We also live in a world where everyone makes mistakes, some of which have just not been defined as crimes. No matter if they are punishable by law or not, every mistake has its consequences. We are lucky in that we do not often find ourselves being punished for mistakes that we have apologized for and redeemed ourselves from. If this were the case, we would still be chastised over mistakes we made during our youth. Also, many of us do not have the influence to teach as many people the lessons our mistakes as Michael Vick has.
Like the rest of us, Michael Vick is human, and made mistakes for which he has both been punished for and apologized. He also has done many positive things for society such as the Team Vick Foundation, which strives to provide second opportunities to people who want to better their social conditions. However in our society, it is common for positives to be overpowered by negatives. Even if you believe you would never make the same mistakes as Vick, think about the mistakes you have committed. Even if you think your mistakes are not as bad as his, it still begs the question of what determines if a mistake is worse than another?
Some people believe that our society prizes animals over humans and, that Vick’s punishment was too harsh. Michael Vick is a father with a wife and children— the negativity he encounters affects not only him but his family as well.
I just hope the same people are willing to crucify Vick for his treatment of dogs, remember Oscar Grant who was murdered by a cop while handcuffed face first in the ground with a boot on his neck, just as strongly as they remember the Michael Vick case. Maybe people will remember Trayvon Martin being killed for fighting someone who was following him through a neighborhood, or they could remember Ethan Couch who got ten years probation even though he crashed into four teenagers leaving them dead while driving under the influence. At the end of the day, the choice is always going to be yours to make.