Michael Vick trotted back onto the preseason field for the Philadelphia Eagles last night to a partial standing ovation in his first game since he got out of federal prison after serving a 19-month sentence for his infamous dogfighting crimes. The NFL is handling Vick's return gingerly, though, giving him game-by-game conditional approval to play rather than reinstating him for the regular season. I buy the argment that Vick did his time and doesn't necessarily merit more punishment from the league. He's already missed two seasons. And I think I'm not just saying that because he was a star quarterback and the Eagles are my home team.
Instead, what bothers me is the contrast between the care the NFL is taking about Vick because he hurt dogs compared to its relative indifference when football players commit crimes against women. In 1994, in the days after O.J. Simpson was charged with murdering Nicole Brown, the Washington Post did an exhaustive review and found 141 football players, 56 pros, and 85 college athletes who'd been reported to the cops for violence toward women in the previous five years. "The three-month review also found allegations by victims and prosecutors that football players were given preferential treatment - sometimes by judges, sometimes by police - and that NFL and club executives were reluctant to discipline athletes who committed crimes that did not directly affect the business of professional football ," Post reporter Bill Brubaker wrote. This was in contrast to the college teams, who tended to take battering charges more seriously. Since then, some pro teams have instituted workshops about domestic violence. But the drumbeat of players who beat their wives and girlfriends goes on. And we hear a lot less about it from the NFL than we do about Michael Vick.
Photogrpah of a Michael Vick supporter by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images.