The White House has confirmed that President Obama recently made a call to Jeffrey Lurie, the owner of the Philadelphia Eagles football team. That much isn't too surprising. The President is a huge sports fan and Philadelphia, which plays on national television tonight against the Minnesota Vikings, is looking like a Super Bowl contender.
The president may have talked about the new energy-saving moves at the Eagle's stadium (2,500 solar panels, 80 wind turbines, and a biodiesel generator that will make Lincoln Financial Field energy self-sufficient). Or perhaps about whether quarterback Michael Vick should beat out New England's Tom Brady in the competition to be named the NFL's Most Valuable Player. They might have talked about any number of things.
But what caught the attention of sports journalist Peter King was Obama's mention of Vick's recent past. The Philadelphia quarterback served nearly two years in jail for running a dog-fighting ring and earned the disgust of dog lovers for abusing and killing dogs in his care.
"[The Eagles owner] told me that the president was passionate about the fact that it’s rarely a level playing field for prisoners once they leave jail," said Peter King, who appears on NBC Sports and has a column in Sports Illustrated. "And he said the message was, what the Eagles had done with Vick was important for society ... giving him a second chance.”
Vick has expressed regret for his actions, claiming he simply didn't know any better at the time but now understands why what he did was wrong. To the surprise of many he's playing the best football of his career and once again spotlighting the question of whether a convicted felon should have been allowed to return to his pro football career.
Most prisoners who have served their time don't have the fame and marketable skills of a Michael Vick. They face a tough road returning to a society which is likely to shun them. While Vick's situation is in many ways unusual, it can provide a moment to remember that giving second chances is an integral part of the American spirit.