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Blank's a hero, Petrino gets a pass
Jason Whitlock /
Posted: 7 hours ago

My ears are different, I guess. What I heard from Falcons owner Arthur Blank on "Monday Night Football" was that he wouldn't rule out the possibility of giving Michael Vick a job when he's released from prison.
"Having just turned 65 in September, I've realized that the word never is a very strong word," Blank responded when Tony Kornheiser expressed surprise that Blank would consider bringing Vick back.

To me, that was the headline from Blank's visit to the "MNF" booth. His throwaway line wondering whether a prison diet of fried chicken and french fries would ruin Vick's conditioning barely registered.

Having been outfitted in a tailor-made Michael Vick clown suit over the past eight months, Arthur Blank, one of the richest men in America, went on national TV and said he'd contemplate granting the ex-con who ruined his football franchise a chance at redemption.

Again, my ears are different. What I heard made me consider Blank a hero. Others heard a potential racist, someone who negatively associates fried chicken with black folks.

Now, I'm black, overweight and both of my parents fry everything that isn't liquid. My father will fry a frozen pizza in day-old bacon grease. Seriously, I associate fried foods with black folks, the South, anything that tastes good (and poor health).

I'm sorry. I'm not offended by food stereotypes when they're stated with zero malice, which is the difference between what Blank said on Monday and what Fuzzy Zoeller said about Tiger Woods years ago.

So that probably explains my focus on Blank's willingness to potentially forgive Vick and welcome him back into the league. America's refusal to allow ex-cons to re-enter our society and workforce is one of the biggest crises facing minority men.

When we talk about fixing the mental pathology of our underclass, one of the solutions is creating an avenue for men and women who make a felonious mistake to regain their full American citizenship -- the right to vote, the right to fill out a job application without listing their criminal history. Look, if someone gets popped for selling drugs at 22, serves eight years, keeps his nose clean for five years upon release, shouldn't the scarlet letter F (for felon) be removed by age 35? This is the land of opportunity and second chances, the country that was started by England's felons.

Some people want Michael Vick locked out of the NFL forever. I don't.

You take away a man's dream forever and you create a hopeless, dangerous man. When you do it to a group of young men (black and brown men), you create a hopeless, dangerous culture.

Vick has lost at least $100 million, his freedom for 23 months and his reputation. I'm not trying to minimize dog fighting and/or the torturing of animals, but Vick will pay more than a fair price for his stupidity and cruelty.

The federal government punished Vick. I'd like to see him rejoin us in a couple of years as a better person than when he went away. The chance of that happening is improved if we all take Arthur Blank's approach. We can recognize the odds are long while keeping an open mind about Vick.

What won't help is continuing to find ways to turn Vick into a victim or vilifying Blank for suggesting Vick use basic common sense and avoid fried chicken and french fries. What won't help is Vick's former teammates wearing "Free Mike Vick" T-shirts and pretending the Falcons have committed some sort of crime against Vick.

"I don't want to say this franchise doesn't want to acknowledge the situation, but that's kind of the way you feel," cornerback DeAngelo Hall told reporters after the "MNF" game. "All his pictures all gone, no more jerseys, no more nothing. We just wanted to let him know we're still thinking about him. We care about him as a human being, not just as a football player and as a running quarterback."

What are the Falcons supposed to do, paint a portrait of Vick on a cross at the 50-yard line?

If there's a Vicktim in any of this, it's Arthur Blank. He gave Vick the $130 million contract, made him a franchise quarterback and rationalized Vick's missteps. Blank was influenced by all the Vick apologists who claimed any criticism of the misguided, video-game-playing, weed-smoking, unprepared quarterback was a product of racism.

Blank went down with Michael Titanic, trading away Matt Schaub before this season. Vick created such a mess in Atlanta that Bobby Petrino ran away from the organization like the Colts leaving Baltimore, in the middle of the night under the cover of darkness.

Watching Petrino and his family raise their arms above their head and shout "suey" with hundreds of Arkansas boosters on live TV at 11:30 p.m. eastern in the middle of the NFL season had to be one of the low points in league history.

Oh, you can call Petrino gutless and unethical, you can compare him to the guy on "Titanic" who stole a seat on a lifeboat by grabbing someone's child, but Petrino is nobody's fool. He didn't draft Vick or suggest the record contract. The Vick iceberg was not Petrino's creation, and damn if he was going to have his career damaged by it or a group of uncoachable players influenced by Atlanta's pointlessly rebellious Dirty South youth culture. (You thought I wasn't?)

I don't blame Petrino for running. If he tried to explain the difficulties associated with coaching young athletes armed with million-dollar contracts in the ATL, most of us wouldn't understand or we'd twist his words and call him racist. Just ask Arthur Blank. >> Feedback | Press | Jobs | Tickets | Join Our Opinion Panel | Subscribe
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Usually I tend to disagree with JW's view of things, however this is rare time where I at least see where he is coming from. (dont know if I agree yet)
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