Last week, Fox Sports hired Michael Vick as an NFL analyst, and the predictable backlash ensued. Though the former quarterback’s conviction on dogfighting charges was a full decade ago, not everyone has forgotten.
Almost immediately after Vick’s hiring was announced, the internet burned with people who want Vick punished until eternity for his crimes, while a Change.org petition demanding Fox stay away from his garnered more than 71,000 signatures.
Well Fox Sports president Eric Shanks is both unsurprised and unfazed by the backlash. Via USA Today:
“We absolutely and completely understand,” Shanks told USA TODAY Sports. “It’s not a different reaction than what we had prepared ourselves for internally at Fox Sports. We discuss it. We talk about what happened then. What type of person is Mike is now? What debt has he paid to society? We still believe it’s the right thing to do.”
“Clearly, we knew that there was potential to be a reaction,” Shanks said. “We spent a lot of time with Mike. We looked at his experience playing in the league after he paid his debt to society.
“We looked at his interaction and support he’s gotten from people like Andy Reid at the Chiefs and (former NFL coach) Tony Dungy. Over the last 10 or 11 years, not only has he paid his debt to society, but he’s done everything a person who has made a terrible mistake like that can do. We felt it was the right person at the right time for us.”
Meanwhile, CBS analyst Nate Burleson defended Vick, pointing out that he did time in prison and arguing he should not have to further pay for his crimes.
“If you don’t like Michael Vick, fine,” Burleson said. “If you don’t want to watch Michael Vick, fine. But if you’re asking him to pay after he spent time in prison for a crime, then how much more work does he have to do? Does he have to pay for it the rest of his life?
“Football parallels society… Society says, when somebody commits a crime, they go to jail and once they get out, they have served their time. I have a problem with people who have a problem with Vick having a job.”
Fox seems to enjoy making a splash with its big hires, even if that means inviting some controversy. But in this case, it’s hard to fault them too much. Since Vick was released from prison in 2009, he has apologized for his crimes and worked with animal rights organizations to make amends. He has played for three NFL teams and served as a coaching intern for a fourth, without a single misstep. Clearly most of the world has forgiven him, and it’s perfectly reasonable that Fox has, too.