Ethics and Politics
UserpicMichael Vick

I've been taking my time to weigh in on the Michael Vick affair. This is partly because news of his signing by the Philadelphia Eagles broke around the time I was frantically scrabbling around trying to work out what I was going to talk about in Edinburgh (see blog below). But it was mostly because I'm in those dangerous heart attack years and I need to keep a keep a careful eye on my blood pressure. So, I'm going to start slowly.

First of all, I'm not one of those people who really buys in to the ‘athletes are role models' idea. Parents are role models; teachers can be too. As many of you know, I even once had a wolf as a role model of sorts. So, I'm pretty flexible on what can count as a role model. But I suspect athletes should just be left to being athletes. They're really not very good at the role model thing. If we really do think athletes should be role models, that says a lot about our society on so many different levels - and it isn't very flattering.

But what says a lot more, I think, is a willingness to watch, indeed pay to watch, someone who, in addition to running an illegal dog-fighting (and gambling) ring, routinely murdered dogs with whom he was displeased - by hanging, electrocution, or drowning - and even threw his own pet dogs into the into the pit to be torn apart by the fighting dogs.

If someone disgusts us, we sometimes say, ‘Get out of my sight!' That's how I feel about Michael Vick. I want him permanently out of my sight. That's no problem for me - I simply won't watch any games involving the Philadelphia Eagles. But I can't understand how anyone could want him in their sight. It is this lack of disgust where disgust is so clearly warranted that is the biggest indictment on our society. Sometimes, whether we have or don't have a given visceral reaction in a given situation says more about us than words ever could. This, I suspect, is one of those situations. Our moral instincts are shot.

I realize that there are several reasonable lines of response my position: he's paid his debt to society, everyone deserves a second chance, etc. I'll discuss these in upcoming blogs. But let's get a stupid response out of the way first. No: I'm not racist. If Tom Brady did what Michael Vick did, I would feel exactly the same way about him.

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