Michael Vick's Dogfights: No Worse Than Hunting?

On Saturday, sports columnist William Rhoden pondered the gross injustice of Michael Vick possibly not playing pro football this year. Vick isthe former Atlanta Falcons quarterback who served jail time for his involvement in a dogfighting ring. Rhoden actually compared Vick to Jackie Robinson in "Wondering About Opportunity as Vick's Wait Goes On."

Rhoden has tried to inject politics in his columns before, sometimes to embarrassing effect, like this 2003 head-scratcher suggesting the University of Alabama hire a black football coach because of the Iraq War, or something.

Rhoden at least avoided the race issue on Saturday, besides bringing inthe dubious expertise of Jesse Jackson, who Rhoden calls a "civil rights activist" but who conservatives would call a liberal hack. From Rhoden's Saturday column:

The Rev.Jesse Jacksonbecame the latest public figure to offer an opinion on the future ofMichael Vick. Jackson said he wondered whether there had been collusion amongN.F.L.owners to keep Vick out of the league.

"I want to make it an issue," Jackson said Thursday in a telephone interview. "I want teams to explain why they have a quarterback who has less skills but is playing or at least is on the taxi squad, and a guy with more skills can't get into training camp."

Two years ago this month, Vick pleaded guilty to felony charges related to his participation in an unlawful dogfightingring and was indefinitely suspended from the N.F.L. Vick wassentenced to 23 months in federal prisonin December 2007.


Jackson, born in 1941, has been a civil rights activist for most of his adult life. He said that in some ways, Vick's attempt to re-enter the N.F.L. was similar toJackie Robinson's entering Major League Baseball.

Although their situations were drastically different, Jackson said, the challenge was the same: Which owner would have the courage to make a controversial signing?

Viewed from a 2009 prism, that comparison seems blasphemous. Robinson became an American icon because of his courage and perseverance. The only thing he did wrong - in some eyes - was to be born African-American.

Rhoden didn't go into the sickening specifics of what happened to the dogs controlled by Vick-beaten, electrocuted, drowned - putting the gory details under the bland condemnation of "cruelty to animals." He then comparedwhat Vick didto...hunting?

For many, the nonnegotiable issue in the Vick case is cruelty to animals. But let's climb off our high horses. We know many fans hunt. They track down innocent animals, blast them with shotguns, shoot them out of the sky with rifles - for sport. Some take off animals' heads and mount them as trophies.

Perfectly legal.