The NFL owners Jesse Jackson accused of colluding against Michael Vick are members of the same group that made Vick the No. 1 pick of the 2001 draft and handed the poor-passing quarterback more than $100 million in contracts.
In a New York Times column written by one of my favorite human beings and columnists (William Rhoden), Jackson compared Vick to Jackie Robinson and insinuated that Vick’s exclusion from training camp was a crime against the American way of life.
“Democracy does not guarantee success,” Jackson told Rhoden in a phone interview. “Democracy guarantees an opportunity. It’s not fair to de facto try to lock (Vick) out of his right to compete. If he can’t make the team, don’t let him play. If he can, let him work.”
Most places on the globe, $100 million is one hell of an opportunity. Vick blew that one by intimately involving himself in an illegal dogfighting ring. He spent two years in the joint for that mistake.
I am an on-the-record, enthusiastic supporter of his re-entry into society and professional football. The possible six-game suspension/conditional reinstatement imposed by commissioner Roger Goodell struck me as excessive, unnecessary and counterproductive.
But Vick is not a martyr or a victim. And any comparison to Jackie Robinson simply strains credibility and introduces a racial component to the Vick debate that will prove to be unhealthy for the QB.
There are logical, sound reasons for NFL teams to exercise restraint before offering Vick a roster spot. And I’m not even talking about the fact he may not be eligible to suit up for a game until Halloween.
He plays quarterback, the most difficult, highest-profile and influential position in all of sports. Last I checked, nothing about Leavenworth Penitentiary prepares a person to play quarterback in the National Football League.
Seriously, did he touch a football the 23 months he was incarcerated? If he did, I don’t believe Rae Carruth was available to run routes.
Before entering prison, Vick was a mediocre passer, the primary skill for an NFL quarterback. There isn’t one reason to believe he’s a more accurate thrower now.
More problematic, Vick’s incarceration cemented his persona as the Tupac Shakur of football. Vick is an iconic figure in the hip-hop world. He’s Vick Doggy Dogg. There’s already a video circulating the Internet showing Vick kicking it with gangsta rapper Young Jeezy [see below]. Vick, sporting a white do-rag, proclaims on camera that Jeezy has always been his “N-word.”
It’s not a crime to hang with rappers (I’m guilty) or use racial epithets (I’m guilty). But Vick seems painfully unaware of his situation and the responsibilities that go along with being a professional quarterback. A QB has to be a leader.
And while professional and college sports teams give Snoop D-Oh-Double-G sideline passes and invitations to practice, no coach in his right mind wants to install a wannabe Snoop as the leader of his team.
When an NFL franchise signs Vick, he instantly becomes the most popular and charismatic player in the locker room. Whether he’s first, second or third on the depth chart or solely the Wildcat QB, Vick will have incredible influence over a locker room filled with 30 to 40 young African-American players.
How will he use that influence? Where will he lead? To the strip club? To the kennel? To Young Jeezy’s house for a “Thug Motivation” party?
There’s no collusion against Michael Vick. Teams are doing proper due diligence. Executives and coaches want to find out what impact 23 months in the pokey had on Vick’s personality. Did it harden his commitment to foolishness? Or did it open his mind to a new, more mature outlook on life?