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August 27, 2007

Does Vick's (sincere?) apology change anything?

This AP account of Michael Vick's formal plea today in federal court indicates that today was full of apologizing:

First, Michael Vick apologized to all the people he lied to.  NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.  Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank.  Coach Bobby Petrino.  His teammates.

"I was not honest and forthright in our discussions," the star quarterback said Monday, somber and deliberate and not speaking from notes.  Then he apologized to "all the young kids out there for my immature acts." "I need to grow up," he added.

And so began a public act of contrition from Vick, who pleaded guilty to a federal dogfighting charge and then stood behind a podium to say his job now was "bettering Michael Vick the person, not the football player." 

There he was, a QB so deft and nimble he pulled off any number of amazing scrambles on the field. Now he was scrambling to save himself and his football future because of his role in a gruesome dogfighting ring.  Saying he was speaking "from the heart," Vick said he took full responsibility for his actions. "Dogfighting is a terrible thing, and I did reject it," he said.

A few years ago, as discussed here, the (now-defunct) Legal Affairs' Debate Club had this great debate between Professors Richard Bierschbach and Michael O'Hear addressing "Will An Apology Save you From Jail?".  The Vick case would seem to be a perfect concrete setting in which to explore some of these professors more abstract musings.

UPDATE:  USA Today has a nice summary of Vick issues in this story entitled, "After the plea, what's next for Michael Vick, Falcons?"

August 27, 2007 at 06:34 PM | Permalink


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Other than the occasional crazy nut who curses the judge after being found guilty, doesn't EVERYONE apologize? The sincerity of the apology is a different question, but whether or not there is an apology is not really all that variable.

To the extent that "he showed no emotion, no sense of regret" is always an excuse (and a pretty understandable one) to sentence a defendent to the maximum allowed by law, an apology precludes such an excuse.

Posted by: bruce | Aug 27, 2007 7:12:15 PM

Maybe a lose/lose situation for Vick. If he is emotional, it is all croc tears. If he is stoic, he doesn't care. If he slashes his wrist, it is only because he got caught. If he reads from a carefully prepared statement, we ALL know what that means ... some LAWYER wrote it! In sum, there are probably just enough emotional elements to his story (some downright tragic, some downright frightening) that most people are pretty much dug in and whatever he does at this point will convince no one of anything, just reinforce what the impressions and beliefs they already have. I, for one, have never cared much for him. But I can easily see myself being among his most avid supporters when he gets out and tries to make good again. Yes, he will have some advantages, and will not be building up from nothing. But, when the time comes, I will probably not care. Maybe it will wind up the greatest comeback story in the history of professional sports.

Posted by: P.S. Ruckman, Jr. | Aug 27, 2007 9:57:05 PM

I think Vick did the best job he could in a tough situation. Apologies and genuine contrition sometimes do carry weight with a sentencing judge. Vick was as apologetic, and seemed to be as sincere, as you could hope him to be. He has nothing to lose by doing so.

Will it be persuasive? The main argument against him is that his involvement with dogfighting lasted five years, and until very recently he was still denying it. With only a few months until sentencing, he doesn't really have time to turn around his life in any meaningful way. It will simply come down to whether it seems believable.

Having said that, judges usually don't sentence above the government recommendation (even though they are permitted to do so). So it would be a real surprise if Vick gets anything above 18 months, unless he does something really stupid between now and then.

Vick's chances of playing in the NFL crucially depend on not having the book thrown at him. Even in the best scenario, he will have lost two years. That's assuming the NFL promptly reinstates him after he's served his sentence, which is not a given. It is difficult to come back in any sport after so long a break, especially in a position so dependent on speed and timing. Of course, the other question is: what team would want Michael Vick as their marquee player?

Posted by: Marc Shepherd | Aug 28, 2007 11:38:48 AM

The NFL is making noises about suspending for life. Don't believe it. Vick will never play for a top team again, but there are plenty of bottom feeding teams that would love to have ANYONE that can play that position. But for it to be the biggest comeback in pro sports Vick would have to learn how to be quarterback and not a halfback that throws occasionally, something he consistently failed to do for his first half-decade in the NFL. The Falcons are probably better off getting out of that idiotic 10 year contract. If you take away Vick's scrambling ability he's got all of the quarterbacking skills of a Tim Couch (though admittedly more grit then crybaby Tim). Vick'll end up a starter for a 2nd tier team like the Cardinals or the Lions in about 2 years, then fade away like so many other once talented and heralded QB's.

Maybe he can coach? Who knows. His resurrection may be years down the road. It'd be great to see him go back to coastal Virginia and coach or teach. That'd probably be the best ending. Assuming the Falcons don't take him for every penny he's got left, he might be happier moving on to something else. He'll never be in the Superbowl as a player.

Posted by: Dweedle | Aug 29, 2007 11:26:54 AM

What happened to the 54 dogs that the government seized from Vicks place on Moonlight Road. Did they kill them? Free the Moonlight Road 54!

Posted by: M. P. Bastian | Aug 31, 2007 11:21:04 AM

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