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This one first came from Gamepolitics, my favorite blog (sponsored by the ECA) for free speech issues in today’s most attacked form of media. I then followed a couple links to find a couple new websites I’ll need to discuss later, namely “PETA Kills Animals” and “Humane Watch.” Which are so interesting that they warrant their own post, and I don’t have the time to address those broad issues at the moment.

I’ve got a lot of personal disagreements with PETA, mostly my thoughts on their animal rights stance (and the fact that they also violate those principals) as opposed to a welfare, and many other examples I may go into detail in another post. But on this one I find myself very conflicted on the issue. Regardless how PETA or internet commentators may want to paint it, this isn’t black and white if you allow yourself to consider the consequences from more than just one point of view.

Let me start by saying that I do have a personal hatred for dog fighting. I recognize that it stems from our attraction to violence, just like gladiatorial events in ancient Rome, to boxing and ultimate fighting today. It’s an active choice whether you care about these animals (or roman slaves) or not, and from my personal welfare perspective, I do not think that the torture and abuse these animals suffer is humane or justified in any way. So yes, my view of Michael Vick is biased and negative.

I’m also not a sports person. I can barely name all of the teams in the Pac 10 (or 12, whatever it is next year). I enjoy watching live football when I’m invested in one of the teams, but I don’t really follow the season or have any idea who’s good this year. Nonetheless, from what I’ve heard of Michael Vick is that he’s damn good at what he does, and that he must be talented enough to be welcomed back to the NFL after being such a public relations nightmare.

So here it is, it comes down to what I think the consequences may be if he does end up on the cover (ignoring the madden curse, which could swing the argument either way). Do I think that this will create a bunch of young athletes that think they can break the law or abuse animals and still be successful? Do I think it glamorizes dog fighting in any way? My gut tells me no. I agree that we should hold our role-model athletes to a higher standard, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t still people.

So then if I don’t think the award represents those negative values, what does it actually become? Here are the facts: there are 15 other top NFL athletes still in the bracket, Vick is a fantastic football player, he is talented enough that teams will draft him even though they will be attacked by organizations like PETA, ASPCA, and HSUS;  he pled guilty, and he served 21 months in prison.

Vick didn’t get to play football while he was in prison, and he served his house arrest. This honor from madden represents a football accomplishment, and he earned that. Maybe he should have served more time, maybe the punishment didn’t fit the crime, and maybe the abuse and destruction of those animals can never be fully forgiven, but that has nothing to do with his career or his personal success in life. To answer PETA’s question: “Is the Madden cover spot only about athletics and nothing about being a decent person?” I’m going to answer yes. The game is a pile of equations and mechanics related to football skills, and includes nothing about the personal lives or role-model rankings of the players within. To be featured on the cover is a testament to your skill and a statement to the player/purchaser that “this game character is really good at football.”

To be perfectly honest, if I cared enough to vote, I’d probably vote against him for the very same reason that PETA wants me to. My vote would reflect my opinion and make sense to me. PETA wants him removed from the bracket entirely, to deny him that chance to be considered rehabilitated or to win back his fans. With 16 players left and Vick’s history, I very much doubt that he will make it to the cover. But that’s a community decision, not PETA’s. The idea to remove him from the bracket implies that everyone is once a criminal, always a criminal. That not only do you serve the time and punishment for your crime, but your personal success in other endeavors is forfeit. They have no right to take away that persons life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness, it’d be as if they opposed Vick getting married (don’t know if he is or not) because he doesn’t deserve to live his life.

“featuring a convicted dog fighter on the cover will send the dangerous message to them that they can commit the most heinous acts of cruelty to animals and still be celebrated and revered” -PETA

I imagine that there are some wealthy people representing PETA who received DUI’s or some other conviction. Should we censor their lives because any success they achieve shows that it’s okay to drive drunk? Or should we allow people to make their own conclusions? I don’t think Vick deserves the honor for my own reasons, but unlike PETA, I’m not going to restrict someone’s rights. Nor would I use censorship to try to prevent others from forgiving them.

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