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Forgiveness for the felon, not the felony
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We live in a world where we love to see stars fall from grace, only to witness them rise from the ashes like the Phoenix and return to prominence.

We’ve seen it with icons in the sports and entertainment world such as Ray Lewis, Kobe Bryant and Robert Downey Jr., men who’ve appeared in courtrooms with their careers hanging by a thread, but still managed to return to their previous level with a strong financial foundation.

Now, we’ll see if this formula holds true to form with former Atlanta Falcons’ quarterback Michael Vick, who was released from prison on Wednesday after spending 19 months behind federal bars for dogfighting charges.

As a condition of his "freedom," he’ll be on house arrest with limited liberties while working a low-paying job making $10 an hour.

Vick went from being the king the hill and the unofficial mayor of Atlanta to public enemy No. 1 after lying then pleading guilty of running a dogfighting operation in his Virginia home.

The southpaw lost millions in salary and endorsements, but most importantly, his reputation as an upstanding citizen and the label of being the face of the NFL.

His case created a nationwide uproar with animal rights groups like the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), who appear to have made it their mission to make sure he receives the same punishment as the prisoners in Guantánamo Bay.

While his drama touched a nerve from sea to shining sea, it particularly hit home in the Atlanta area, where prior to his sentencing, there appeared to be a No. 7 jersey on the back of every other person walking the streets.

Like it or not, Vick’s saga also crossed racial lines as blacks and whites shared vastly opinioned views that brought to the forefront the differences of our glaring cultural divide.

I love animals and I was truly disgusted by the heinous act he committed, but he served his time and so I’m ready to move forward with an open heart of forgiveness.

However, I know I’m in the minority with this thinking as many fans still hold a grudge against him with no inclination of turning the other cheek on this case.

We’ve seen athletes and entertainers do far worse illegal activity including murder, manslaughter, domestic abuse, rape, drug trafficking and insider trading, yet they’ve never been treated or received the same negative public attention as Vick.

Currently, Vick is still suspended from playing in the NFL until Commissioner Roger Goodell firmly believes he’s sincere in his apology and lifts his indefinite ban from playing the game he loves.

While I think one day Goodell will reinstate Vick, hopefully this season, the quarterback still has a long way to go before he can regain even the smallest type of national popularity.

Although it will be difficult, I think he needs to do an extreme public image makeover tour with a tear-jerking interview on Oprah to win over women and a segment on Larry King Live or 60 Minutes to appeal to middle class men, who spend the big bucks for football tickets.

I’m new to working in Rockdale County, but in the two months that I’ve spent in town, it’s hard not to notice a church or religious reference on almost every block and exit along the interstate.

This is a deeply-rooted Christian community and one of the principles of the faith is forgiveness.

So, I hope you can find it in your heart to practice what you preach and believe by forgiving Vick for his previously evil ways.

I have. What about you?


Rory Sharrock is sports editor for The Rockdale News. He can be reached at