Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Justice: Man's Best Friend?

Former pro quarterback Michael Vick was sent to jail on conspiracy charges for forcing dogs to fight to the death. Vick and his friends gambled on these fights and many dogs died or were badly injured. Vick was sentenced to 23 months in jail and lost tens of millions of dollars in salary and endorsement deals.
This July he is eligible to leave prison and hopes to rejoin the NFL. As part of his "reformation," Vick was asked to take an empathy test that followed a film of horrific animal abuses. Above is a link to the test along with Vick's answers. (Vick earned a 73.5 out of 100)! Wait for it to load: it's worth seeing it in his own handwriting.

For me this process raises many questions: Was Vick's sentence -- far stiffer than many people who have been found guilty of killing human beings -- too harsh? What do you think of Vick having to submit to a PeTA empathy test? Can empathy be taught? How does the Vick story relate to our study of mythology -- Vick's and ours? Will Vick's story follow the redemptive arc?

20 comments:

Jackie said...

I think, for one, his sentence was as good as we could have gotten. It would have been hard to justify putting him in jail for five years, but I hate the idea that he is going to be out in the real world again, with the large possiblity that he didn't even learn anything. If he just gets a job back in the NFL, what does that teach him? Also, I am not a fan of PETA, but I do think an empathy test, or even pysch test is important. I feel like animal abuse can be a gateway to things like domestic abuse. And finally, I think empathy can be taught, but it can only be taught to yourself, if that makes any sense. I think every person learns empathy in their own way, with some help from outside forces, but truly, I think you learn empathy through your own experiences.

Adam said...

If Vick's sentence was longer than the normal dog-fighting one, I would not be suprised. He is a celebrity, by sending him away for two years the legal system is making a huge statement. Not just towards pro athletes, but to average Americans. His sentence sets an example, I believe that people will be discouraged to fight with animals because of Vick. The case was all over the news and the papers. People may start to think twice when they follow in Vick's footsteps because of his harsh sentence. As for the empathy test, it is hard to say if empathy can be taught. With the recent legal trouble of NFl players like Ray Lewis, Pac Man Jones, and Vick, it seems these high profile athletes aren't extrmely empathetic. Right now, I am having a hard time coming to a conclusion on Michael Vick without being a relativist. Reguardless of my emotions, Vick's empathy may tie in to his redemptive story. If he wants to get back into the league and the hearts of NFL fans, he will need to show more empathy on and off the field. What's more, he will definately need to act friendier towards fans and the media if he wants to win them back. Historically, the NFL has been good about giving second chances. The league gave Cowboys safety Pac Man JOnes about 100 chances to redeem himself, though he is now back in legal trouble. It will be interesting to see if Vick follow's in Jones' footsteps, or reedems himself and reincarnates his career.

Kate H said...

I think that Michael Vick needs more jail time 23 months is not enough for some one who has killed and injured dogs just for sport. Reading his empathy test I thought that the score does not accurately test the amount of empathy he would show some one. The first question is what is the golden rule and how it can be applied to your life and in your relationships with animals. He answered it the first part correctly but not the second part. If you ask any kid in the third grade what the golden rule is they will be able to spit the correct answer at you.

Gordie C said...

Well I think this empathy test is ridiculous. How should a test on animal empathy determine if Michael Vick is allowed to leave jail? First of all there is a right answer to every answer and the answers aren't very difficult. Mr. Vick can easily write these correct answers even if he doesn't really believe them. Personally i think Vick should have to serve his full 23 months and then be on animal probation. Even if Vick has learned from his disgusting mistakes it does not mean he is never going to partake in anymore of these dog fights. Also, how do you score a empathy test. By looking at his score of a 73.5, which is barely a C grade, is that score high enough or does this mean he has not learned his lesson. I believe Vick should have to spend the whole 23 months in jail. I also believe his journey back to the NFL will be tough because many teams are looking for "moral" or "respectful" not players who have broken the law on their teams.

Gordie C said...

Well I think this empathy test is ridiculous. How should a test on animal empathy determine if Michael Vick is allowed to leave jail? First of all there is a right answer to every answer and the answers aren't very difficult. Mr. Vick can easily write these correct answers even if he doesn't really believe them. Personally i think Vick should have to serve his full 23 months and then be on animal probation. Even if Vick has learned from his disgusting mistakes it does not mean he is never going to partake in anymore of these dog fights. Also, how do you score a empathy test. By looking at his score of a 73.5, which is barely a C grade, is that score high enough or does this mean he has not learned his lesson. I believe Vick should have to spend the whole 23 months in jail. I also believe his journey back to the NFL will be tough because many teams are looking for "moral" or "respectful" not players who have broken the law on their teams.

Max Rice said...

"When the stables were burnt down, on returning from court, Confucius said, "Was anyone hurt?" He did not ask about the horses."

maddie hilbrant said...

I agree with Adam. I think that this sentencing will prevent future dog-fighting cases, but I also believe he is entitled to his 2-year sentence. I think that empathy cannot be taught, it's not something that can be pounded into your brain;you have to believe it.

Frettzilla said...

Just because vick takes an empathy test does not mean that he really truly has changed. he could have said the answers that show he has grown more empathetic but in fact he hasnt. the truth is he was a leader of a dog fighting organiztion and he should pay for this. 23 months sounds reasonable and it is also going to be hard for him to find a team that wants him when he comes back to the NFL. who wants a player that was in jail for 2 years and has pictures of his beat up dogs on the cover of Sports Illustrated? I believe his story is over and there is no remdemptive arc. if you look at other players who have gotten arrested throughout the year you will see that when they come back they partake in the same thing they were suspened for. for example ricky williams was suspened for drugs, he came back and was suspended again, and now he is still playing but not at the level where he was before the suspensions. this well could happen to vick and what team team wants a player that keeps getting in trouble and gives a bad rep to the team. the PETA test is useless because it really cannot tell how people are going to act in the future. they may say they have learned a lesson, but then they fall back into the trouble spotlight

Matt L. said...

I think that Vick will follow the redemptive arc because if he wins in the NFL all will be forgotten. If a person in the NFL wins, for some reason the American people forget the past of the person. If you look at the New York Giants as soon as they lost their playoff game, people were saying they should bring Plaxico Burress back to the team. Also, as soon as the district attorney found out what Vick did they targeted him and got his friends to turn on him to make an example out of him and stop others from doing what he did.

Carrie F. said...

This "empathy" test is really odd. First of all, it should be called a sympathy test, as Michael Vick cannot be turned into an animal and be abused to "walk a mile in someone's shoes."
Secondly, I really don't think empathy can be taught, or in this case, forced, to someone who held dog fights in his own home. It's basically a no-brainer that it's immoral and terrible to hurt animals. Any idiot can figure that out. Sure, we can make him take an empathy test and try to "redeem" him, but developing a sort of phony empathy could never erase what he did. It certainly makes us, the non-abusive types, feel better about letting him out of jail, but I'm not sure it would be staggeringly effective.

Claire S. said...

I feel as if Vick's 23 months in prison is a reasonable amount of time. However, so many people know who Michael Vick is because he is a pro football player and for him to be doing this to dogs is horrendous. I agree with Brian. If he does decide to some back to the NFL once he is out of prison, will he be able to find a team that wants him after what he has done? The public will never forget what Michael Vick has done to innocent dogs. Who knows if the empathy test that Vick took was totally true. He could have made some things up just to make his score higher. Who knows if Vick truly learned his lesson for what he has done.

Matt H said...

This truly was an abomination of class here. I don't think that there will be a real change here due to the fact that his brother, Marcus, after numerous encounters with the law in college still seemed to end up getting arrested one way or another. I do think Mike deserves a second chance, but I won't feel good about it. In addition, if you ask me, the NFL and the Falcons didn't take away enough money from Mike. He should be thankful for being so lucky in life and being receiving such an extreme contract and this is what he does in return to the fans who are paying his salary???!!!

Julia said...

I feel like the empathy test PETA gave to Vick is kind of silly... He could easily write what he knew they wanted to hear, which is what I believe he did. Even if he did learn something from the video they showed him, I don't feel like he would have some revelation about his morals and the way he treated animals. His answers on the empathy test seem fake and forced. He obviously wants to seem like he learned his lesson so that he will be liked and be able to join the NFL again.

Kimber said...

I agree with most people that posted on this blog. They all agreed on the fact that the empathy test was ridiculous. I do not believe that empathy is something that you can teach. It is not like learning specific facts and memorizing information. It is something that a person needs to feel on their own. It seems silly to create a test that will determine if he is allowed out of jail on how much empathy he feels. I do think that some good has come from this situation. As Adam and Maddie stated, hopefully this sentencing will prevent future dog-fighting cases. I think it is good that he was sentenced to jail for 23 months. It is making a statement that celebrities do not get a “get out of jail free” pass. As seen from our in class discussion, people in the past have believed that celebrities have it easy, but nowadays this has slowly stopped. More and more athletes are being arrested for crimes the committed. I think that this is important, especially after reading the example Brian provided of players that have come back and repeated the same action they were suspended for. Also, the coaches should pay more attention to their players. If they state that “they had no idea what was going on” this only shines a bad light on them and their team. They should play closer attention and in an attempt to catch this behavior early and put it to a stop.

Miles said...

I disagree strongly with Vick's actions, being an owner of a dog, and I think his sentencing was just. What he did was wrong and he got what he deserved. If he is released from jail come July it's uncertain that NFL Commissioner Rodger Goodell will even reinstate Vick, if he does reinstate Vick it's uncertain whether any team will indeed sign him.

Personally if I were Vick I'd be kissing PETA's butt so much because I want to play in the NFL, I don't think he should have to take the test, but he definitely made the right choice. Anyone can lie about how empathetic they are, so whats the point? It's just posturing for the media and to get a chance at being reinstated.

Empathy can be taught, but I believe that halfway through ones life is not a time to learn it. Empathy is learned when you encounter instances of it in your young life, then you base your reactions from then to current situations.

Vick had the typical mythology of most pro athletes, the I'm better than you are therefore I don't have to follow your rules myth and the myth of entitlement. Athletes these days are hand picked out of High school and are pampered, spoiled and fed this myth. Through college the media focuses on them and they learn nothing in school. they get to their respective leagues like the NFL or NBA and by then are entitled persons. Then they go into the strip clubs and shoot others or themselves in the leg. It's a phenomenon that exists in all sports all across the world. In Italy the soccer clubs bet illegally instead of shooting people. Vick is no different from other high profile athletes, just he got caught.

Vick had his arc, he came from nothing and turned into an NFL superstar, then he wasted it all on the killing of innocent dogs. If Vick comes back from this, it's not going to be him that does it all, it's going to depend on the media and the NFL. Can you have multiple arcs in one lifetime? I don think so, I think he had his chance.

LukeHG said...

I think his sentence is stiff then most, because hes a celebrity and is a role model. I think they had to punish him more because it will show the people that look up to him that its not "OK" to do these things. I believe that the empathy test he had to take means nothing at all. Anyone could pass that test. The key to passing it is writing down what they want to hear. Someone can get a 100% on it but that does not mean they truly believe in what they put down on it.

Danny M said...

I agree with the argument that Luke is making. I think that by giving Micheal Vick a tougher punishment than the average person, they are setting an example that this type of behavior will not be tolerated, no matter who you are. With that said, I think that his sentence was very firm, but also very fair. As a celebrity he has more privilages than the average American. But with these privlages he also has the great responsibility of being a role model. Taking such an awful action as this should merit a higher punishment because he did not fulfill his responsibility. Also, taking an empathy test does not mean anything and does not tell any of Mike Vick's feelings and emotions. It is very easy for someone to lie, and just because he writes it down does not mean its the truth.

andrea said...

I agree with what Danny and Luke said. I feel as though Vick's punishment was tougher than it would have been on any other person because the NFL keeps very high standards. In class we talked about the players doing social service and giving back to the commmunity, so the NFL looks good. If they look good, companies will want to sponsor them. Therefore, i think they took such measures on Vick to show that the NFL is truely good and in no way shape or form do they approve or tolerate such behavior in order to save face.

Boris P said...

It was not right to make Vick submit to the PETA empathy test. PETA is a radical and unreasonable group of people. Anything PETA makes is biased and in line with their crazy views. These views include supporting terrorist groups such as the ALF. PETA feels it is ok to kill people to save animals. Either way making Vick submit to any test is not justified. He will serve his punishment and that should be all he is subjected to.

tvnewsbadge said...

Test or no test, I doubt that Michael Vick has changed. He is what he is.
We can only hope that once he returns to society he will recognize that animal abuse can be very expensive and will refrain from it in the future.
The problem for society (and for Vick)is that the sports fans will continue to love and support him no matter what he did or may do in the future, so there is very litle incentive for him to clean up his act. Given that reality, it might be very diffcult for Mr. Vick not to slide back into his old ways and end up back in the slammer.