Barry Saunders

January 29, 2014

Saunders: Hold on – I never said Michael Vick was a hero!

Barry Saunders will not be serving as president of the Michael Vick Fan Club.

Y’all obviously didn’t get the memo, so here it is again, in the words of my second-favorite Civil War general, William T. Sherman.

Upon having his name floated as a possible presidential candidate of the country he’d just defended, Sherman proclaimed, “I will not accept if nominated and I will not serve if elected.”

So there.

I hereby proclaim the same thing.

Scores of readers have somehow elected me President of the Michael Vick Fan Club, an office I neither sought nor aspired to and definitely don’t want.

All I did ...

Why, all your humble correspondent did was write a well-reasoned column this week stating that the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce shouldn’t be villainized for inviting Vick to speak at its “Evening of Champions” dinner next month.

Sure, Vick’s fame as a football player is exceeded only by his infamy as a dogfighting aficionado who bankrolled the brutalization of dogs, but considering that he has been on a yearslong mission to redeem his deservedly battered image, he may have something worthwhile to say, something worth hearing.

Egads! Judging by the responses, one would have thought I’d nominated the dude for sainthood. Take this letter, from a reader named Wendy.

“Why don’t you get to the real story. I believe in second chances. I believe you earn them and make amends and show regret. He got a second chance at the NFL because he can throw a ball. He had a job within 3 months of getting out of jail. He did not just kick the dog. He did horrible sadistic things. ... I dare you to read (a book about Vick and dogs) and look upon Vick as a role model or hero.”

Dear Wendy, Despite the misperception of a hundred others like you, I’ve never looked at Vick as a hero or role model. I did write, though, that “Either we as a nation believe in rehabilitation or we don’t, believe in second chances or we don’t, believe – finally – in forgiveness or we don’t.”

That stoked the ire of a reader named Judy, who wrote back, “I don’t see what in ‘rehabilitation’ or ‘second chances’ entitles a person to be a celebrity and go around making speeches.”

Carol wrote, “Of all the subjects you could write about, you picked Michael Vick or as I call him dog killer. Why anyone would want to hear him speak is beyond me. Raleigh should be ashamed.”

On their terms

Delving further into the voluminous and vitriolic Vick column responses, one could see that many people who pay lip service to forgiveness want to grant it only on their own terms. For instance, many didn’t object to his earning a living: They just objected, apparently, to him earning a good living as an athlete or by being a celebrity. Or making speeches.

It is possible to conclude that Vick deserves a chance to move on with his life, but that he also deserves every bit of the denunciation being heaped upon him.

You know who else deserves some?

Politicians such as Sen. Bill “Rage On” Rabon, who this week was heard on tape profanely denouncing Gov. Pat McCrory’s wife, the governor and anyone else who wants to protect dogs in our state, that’s who.

As noted in an N&O news story and editorial this week, Sen. Rage On, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, has apparently used his considerable power to kill off a “puppy mill bill” that would “more closely regulate large dog breeders” and increase the likelihood that dogs are treated humanely.

Vick’s actions were reprehensible and indefensible, and neither he nor the raging Southport Republican can be considered a best friend of man’s best friend.

On the other hand, though, any fan of fair play must acknowledge that Vick paid to society the debt demanded of him – nearly two years in prison – and has since taken steps to improve his image by, among other things, speaking to impressionable kids about his many mistakes.

Vick has worked with the Humane Society but not, as I incorrectly stated, the ASPCA. That organization, reportedly doubting Vick’s sincerity, rejected his offer to volunteer.

That is the group’s right. The people protesting Vick’s selection as speaker and ASPCA should both remember, though, that you don’t have to be a paragon of virtue to say something people need to hear.

The Chamber of Commerce obviously knows that.

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