Vick should be free to endorse without criticism

Few athletes in recent memory had a faster fall from grace than Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick.

A quick rise to stardom in the NFL preceded Vick’s darkest days. Now, Vick is on the rebound and gaining back endorsement deals he lost, despite the outrage of many.

Vick left Virginia Tech in 2001 with expectations that by the time his NFL career ended, he could go down as the greatest dual-threat quarterback to ever play the game. Unparalleled athleticism helped Vick post 21 passing touchdowns and 17 rushing touchdowns in a two-year college career.

The Atlanta Falcons didn’t make Vick wait long on NFL draft day, taking him with the first overall pick and immediately making him the face of the franchise. His raw athletic ability even persuaded the Colorado Rockies to draft him in the MLB Draft, despite having never played college baseball.

Fast forward three years and Vick was on the cover of the Madden 2004 video game – an elite honor reserved for the best the NFL has to offer.

Fast forward another three years and Vick was at the United States Penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kan., serving prison time for a federal conviction on dog fighting charges.

The man who once ran around defenders in front of millions now ran around a prison yard in the middle of Kansas.

Vick pleaded guilty to financing and participating in the terrible crimes associated with dog fighting and was sentenced to 23 months in prison. He was released in May 2009 after serving 21 months.

Upon his release, Vick immediately sought a partnership with the Humane Society of the United States, a move that angered many.

A Frequently Asked Questions section on the Humane Society states, “Given the penalties available at the time he was sentenced, U.S. District Court Judge Henry Hudson meted out a strong penalty to Vick. He paid a steep price for his crimes, in addition to serving his prison sentence.”

If the Humane Society – an organization with the most right to be offended by Vick’s actions – can welcome him, so should the public. Nike dropped Vick from its marketing efforts when the scandal became public, but signed him to another deal this month, making him the first athlete they’ve ever re-endorsed.

Vick committed serious crimes and served his time in prison, as our justice system commands. He is now a free man, which should mean he is free to sign endorsement deals with whomever he chooses.