Michael Vick's mea culpa on "60 Minutes" was intended, like his speech before the Humane Society, to appease the broiling anger directed at him since his release from prison and hiring by the Philadelphia Eagles. He claims to feel "pure disgust" about the decision to run a dogfighting ring.
Did it work? Reaction is split. For those who were open to forgive him for the sake of football, yes. And there has even been a slight amelioration among some of his attackers in appreciation of the fact that his apologies strike many as sincere. But Philadelphians are still upset that the most notorious felon in the NFL has landed on their doorstep.
Here are the reasons pundits want to forgive him:
- Even a Cynic Had to Be Swayed, says Gregg Doyel in a column at CBS Sports. "Cynical as I am, I bought it. I bought Michael Vick's sincerity, his apology, his self-loathing. If there's a price to pay later for my gullibility ... fine. I'll pay it."
- A Perfect PR Performance, says Kevin Sullivan, Bush's former director of communications. He cites four reasons to believe Vick was sincere: 1. He didn't hesitate to agree that his behavior was immoral; 2. He put all the blame on himself; 3. He said he "deserved" to lose $130 million; 4. He eschewed the crisis management playbook and said he simply felt "Disgust."
- A New Ally in Battling Dogfighting, says Wayne Pacelle, chief executive of the Humane Society. He also appeared on the program to draw attention to the scourge of dogfighting rings. "Tonight Michael Vick committed to become an anti-dogfighting advocate. When we turn adversaries into allies, that's always a good thing."
Here are the skeptics' views:
- Vick Has a History of Lying, says Mike Freeman in a damning litany of Vick sins at CBS Sports. "Vick has a history of repeating mistakes, many of them, all the time. Declaring beforehand he was going to change, only to be the same old Vick in the end."
- CBS Softened the Blow, says David Zurawick at the Baltimore Sun. He criticizes them for failing to show graphic proof of violence committed by Vick. "The biggest pulled punch involved the images they chose to show -- and not to show -- of the victims of Vick's sadism."
- An All-Too-Lucky Ex Con, says Signe Wilkinson in the Philadelphia Daily News. "If Vick wanted to make a difference, he'd ask the Eagles organization: How many other ex-offenders do they have working within the organization? How many jobs at Lincoln Financial Field are held by people trying to turn their lives around?"
- A Predictable Apology, says Larry Brown at the Washington Post. "Vick's only sorry because he got caught and because his freedom was taken away."
You wouldn't expect an embrace of Vick so quickly after the vitriol. But he may be able to budge the needle on the skepticism if he proves, as Wayne Pacelle hopes, that he's not just another athlete who's sorry because he got caught.