A Moral Dilemma

One of my sons recently requested a Michael Vick jersey. (He was clever enough to pander to my roots by asking, “Can I get an Eagles jersey — to honour and celebrate your home town affiliation with the city of William Penn, Ben Franklin, and Jerry Blavat– and can we put the City of Brotherly Love’s quarterback’s name on the back?)

I am torn on this one, so I turn to you for advice. Do I cave on one of my last remaining principles and allow one of my progeny to display the jersey of a convicted dog-killer?

Or do I cave on principle, because of the belief that everyone, especially if that everyone throws for 4,000 yards and leads his team to the playoffs in the oh-so-competitive NFC EAST, deserves a second chance?

Plato, I believe, would go with the latter because “the ideal” would always include a rationale for forgiveness. Aristotle, however, might counter by focusing on decision-making. How can you honour anyone who decides to not only engage in dog-fighting but also decides to be less than forthright during the investigation?

If we are our habits, as Aristotle himself suggested, then I should resolve this as I do most dilemmas by asking the question first raised,I believe, by Thomas Aquinas: “An venalia?”  (“Is it on sale?”)


6 thoughts on “A Moral Dilemma

  1. I just read your thoughtful blog pieces yesterday, and thought about Michael Vick overnight. I would not buy the jersey, just as I would not give one of my sons a Pete Rose bat.

    It is true that Vick has served the terms of his penitentiary sentence, and has in that sense paid his debt to civil society. I do not quarrel with his reinstatement in the NFL (although I do not feel unduly cynical for asking whether a less gifted athlete would have been so treated).

    But the jersey issue engages a further question: does Vick deserve to be venerated? For me, the answer is a resounding no. His offenses were cowardly, and their circumstances suggest that he lived in a remarkably sociopathic circle. To hand off his jersey to your son is to suggest that the slate is somehow clean, that serving a sentence amounts to a settling of accounts for all purposes. That for me is a stretch.

  2. Jim,
    I am with President Obama on this one. Vick paid his dues and has seemed to have made a significant step in his personal life. His performance this year has been great (except for his last outing), and he has handled everything with modesty and good sense. I would rather have a Vick shirt on my son than a T.O. Jersey. I think you will have some who will focus only on the brutality to the dogs, not his having served his punishment. I think he deserves a second chance in his chosen profession. I don’t know if I would want to advertise that opinion on my son simply because those who are against it are so passionate. How badly does he want it? Enough to put up with a fanatic dog person? For me it is very simple: Vick paid his debt and is new man. Good for him. Good for our system of justice.

  3. Tony Dungee, a born-again Chritian and a man of immense faith, addressed just this issue a few weeks ago. Michael Vick called him when he was in prison and asked for Dungee’s guidance and help. This was not surprising because Dungee’s reputation as a “non nonsense” but compassionate “man of God” was widespread among players and coaches in the NFL. He has been working with him ever since. he said that he was immensely proud of how Vick had turned around his life and had accepted moral responsibility for the heinous acts that he had committed. Dungee pointed to how Vick is living his life now — and also noted the renewed dedication that Vick had brought to his game and to living a moral life. Vick has asked the court’s permission to get a dog.

    If he had come out remorseless and haughty, I would say “No way!” But he has come out seeking to make amends and surrounding himself with good people. You know tghat i am no “softee” when it comes to demanding accountability. In this case, I think that Vick has paid his legal debt to society and continues to demonstrate a commitment to moral growth. I say, let him get the shirt. There is more joy in heaven when one sinner. . . .

  4. There is an easy answer to this one, Jim, and we both know what it is.
    Tell your son that you are going to do even better.

    Instead, have him honour and celebrate his mom’s hometown affiliation with the commonwealth of Paul Revere, Samuel Adams, Henry David Thoreau, and Doug Flutie. And put the name of this year’s NFL MVP on his back instead.

    Of course I am assuming you do not have a moral dilema with the sight of a grown man wearing UGGS boots…

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