Eagles quarterback Michael Vick has been selected by his teammates as the winner of the Ed Block Courage Award, an honor bestowed by each team on a player who “exemplifies commitments to the principles of sportsmanship and courage,” according to the Ed Block Courage Award Foundation’s website.
The award recipient “symbolizes professionalism, great strength and dedication. He is also a community role model. With this honor, he enters into an association which contrasts his fierce profession by becoming a major component of the Courage House National Support Network for Kids. He becomes an Ambassador of Courage for victims of abuse, violence and neglect. The Ed Block Courage Award recipient will be identified as a team player in helping abused children and families in crisis.”
It is one of the highest honors a player can receive, and past award winners include former Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi, who overcame a stroke to continue his career, Cowboys safety Keith Davis, who recovered from a gunshot wound to resume playing, and Steelers safety Ryan Clark, who nearly died after a game in Denver because of a violent reaction from sickle-cell complications.
He returned to the NFL after being imprisoned nearly two years for running an illegal dogfighting operation for six years in his home state of Virginia. And for this, he gets a courage award from his teammates?
I can certainly appreciate that Vick has endured intense criticism and scrutiny for his actions. And I can also appreciate that his speeches to young people about avoiding the ills of dogfighting are helpful in addressing a major problem afflicting the country. Vick has been duly apologetic and contrite upon his return to the NFL, and I believe he has every right to continue playing after paying his debt to society.
But for his teammates to give him an award for courage seems somewhat misguided. For while it is well and good to appreciate his efforts to deal with his situation, let’s not forget that he brought about these circumstances in the first place with his heinous behavior. It was the senseless and unspeakable acts he perpetrated on helpless animals were that got him into trouble.
The fact that he has learned from his mistakes and has attempted to prevent others from going down the same path is laudable. But worthy of an award that “symbolizes professional, great strength and dedication,” according to the Ed Block foundation?
I don’t think so.