Will Michael Vick be able to play prison football?

Answers to your questions about the news.
Dec. 11 2007 5:42 PM

Can Michael Vick Play Football in Prison?

Only if he's lucky.

Michael Vick. Click image to expand.
Michael Vick

A federal judge in Richmond, Va., sentenced former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick to 23 months in prison for his role in an illegal dogfighting ring. Whether Vick will ever play professional football again is up in the air. In the meantime, will he at least be able to play football in prison, a la The Longest Yard?

Possibly, depending on where he ends up. The federal Bureau of Prisons operates 114 facilities, and it's up to each institution to organize recreational activities for its own inmates. While it's official bureau policy to encourage organized sports and other activities for inmates to pursue during their leisure time, officials tend to avoid contact sports like football that can quickly get out of hand. So if Vick wants to play football behind bars, he'll have to get lucky and end up somewhere that offers the sport.


Wardens prefer team sports like basketball, softball, and volleyball, which involve less physical interaction between players. But some curtail those activities as well, to avoid "Club Fed"-style accusations that prison is too easy for the inmates. When they do allow prisoners to play with the pigskin, it's usually flag football. Even if a warden wanted to allow full-contact football, most prisons don't stock, or can't afford, the padding and other equipment necessary for tackling.

Even flag football can cause problems for prison guards. In 1991, a Colorado facility went into lockdown after a fight broke out; one player felt he'd been "hit a little hard" during the game. In 2004, a small riot started at a penitentiary for troubled girls in Florida when several inmates tried to hang themselves with the flags. (Unlike the movie TheLongest Yard, inmates never go up against the guards on the football field.)

Got a question about today's news? Ask the Explainer.

Explainer thanks Felicia Ponce of the Federal Bureau of Prisons and James Robinson of the Federal Correctional Institution in Morgantown, W.Va.

Chris Wilson is a Slate contributor.



Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

The XX Factor

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

  News & Politics
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
Brow Beat
Sept. 20 2014 3:21 PM “The More You Know (About Black People)” Uses Very Funny PSAs to Condemn Black Stereotypes
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 20 2014 7:00 AM The Shaggy Sun
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.