The Doghouse of Public Perception

Unless you have zero access to the multiple forms of media available to us today, you may have noticed that NFL Pro-Bowler Michael Vick finally took his bite in the jugular yesterday by agreeing to a plea agreement that will undoubtedly land him some jail time for his participation in an unthinkable dog fighting ring. The heinous details surrounding the specifics of these accusations are enough to turn anyone’s stomach and the public outrage continues to gain steam. But let’s briefly examine what the future holds for the star QB because the core of his fait will be determined on straightforward public perception.

Sure, Mike Tyson made it back into the ring after his many mix-up’s with the law and Ray Lewis is one of the most adored defensive players in the NFL, and he was involved with an actual homicide. But this is a country that is very sensitive about their pets … hell, most people love their dogs more than many of their own cousins, so the uphill battle Vick faces in the eyes of the public will be almost impenetrable. Consider PETA, an organization with almost 2million members … 2million! For any NFL owner considering throwing Vick a bone after his turn in the clink, consider this; if every PETA representatives attended at least one game, it would be approx 25 individual games before you got rid of them. That’s almost two full seasons with every seat filled by a person who would gladly throw Mr. Vick in a Gladiator arena for a fight to the death with Russell Crowe.

By this time in approx 18months, and while no amount of jail time will excuse his crimes, he will have technically paid his debt to society, and we will then see a massive PR campaign spin into motion that our young, aspiring publicists will read about in school for years to come. Will this be a success story or a complete failure? Only time will tell but here is what I believe – in fear of boring you with salary compensations, signing bonuses and endorsement specifics, assume that he is currently worth about $60million and will basically throw away another $83million all because this little endeavor. What does this validate? He wasn’t torturing and killing these animals for money, he was doing it for obvious, pure enjoyment and the public is on to him. I think the wisdom of the crowd will deem this to be an unforgivable crime, and if we see Vick in a football stadium again anytime soon, he will have paid the $85 like the rest of us. The court of public perception is simply too strong and any NFL owner willing to take on a PR nightmare of this caliber would have to be more irresponsible than Vick himself.

From a football fan’s perspective, its sad day. Michael Vick was nowhere near his prime and he was one of the truest illustrations as to why this is the most beloved sport in America. He flushed away his career and will never be looked at the same again. Public image is a scary thing, and while many view the US as a country of second chances, I don’t think this will be one of those instances.

But I have been wrong before – what do you think? Does Michael Vick deserve a second chance? Or is he destined for exile in the doghouse of public perception?

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