Harry R. Jackson, Jr.

The story of the $130-million-a-year football contract thrown down the drain by an impulsive 27-year-old is a tragic misuse of time, talent, and money. Of all the secret vices that have been exposed recently, dog fighting is perhaps the most bizarre. For the better part of a month now, sports enthusiasts have debated the fate of Michael Vick, famed quarterback of the Atlanta Falcons. Once his guilt was established, the obvious question was, “Now, what?”

Two weeks ago I chatted with a wise, older gentleman at my health club concerning the Michael Vick court case. This retired surgeon said, “Americans are a forgiving people.” We agreed that Vick needed to make a public statement of remorse that came from his heart. We also felt that the likelihood of Vick making a believable apology was uncertain. Don Imus, Paris Hilton, and a long list of celebrities have recently fallen out of grace with the public. Despite their pleas for public leniency, they were sentenced severely in the court of public opinion.

In my mind, we are experiencing an “anti-celeb” backlash. Fans are no longer mindlessly following their leaders or “super stars.” They are demanding both responsibility and character. The Vick’s case is no different. Except for the fact that he should have been the poster child for “ghetto kid makes good,” he seemed like just another case of the privileged gone bad.

At heart, Vick seemed to be a good person, yet as he grew in stature he grew in arrogance. Flipping “the bird” at his fans seemed to be the ultimate coup de grace on his road to disgrace. Vick had become “too big for his britches.” Close observers say that Vick had obviously fallen into bad company. As a result, he seemed to relish the thug image of “the hood.” My friends and I hoped that he would make a mea culpa statement to the press that showed genuine contrition and humility. These traits are hard to fake. Since emotional maturity and football prowess rarely seem to coincide, we were not expecting much from Vick unless he allowed a “behind the scenes” mentor to help him prepare for the most important speech of his life.

This past week, Michael Vick’s public confession went very well. He said “I’m upset with myself, and you know, through this situation I found Jesus and asked him for forgiveness and turned my life over to God.”

Many people were impressed with his delivery and the content of his message. Yet, a great number of people doubt his sincerity.

Harry R. Jackson, Jr.

Bishop Harry Jackson is chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD, and co-authored, Personal Faith, Public Policy [FrontLine; March 2008] with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.