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George Curry

Michael Vick Has Paid His Dues

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George E. Curry, NNPA Columnist

When it was announced that Michael Vick had been signed by the Philadelphia Eagles, echoes of “Who Let the Dogs Out?” became popular again. Bigmouths on sports radio, proposed some new lyrics for the Eagles’ fight song:

“Die, Fido, die…”

The auction site eBay offered Michael Vick chew toys for dogs. Some fans threatened to cancel their prized and limited season tickets and others were standing in line, hoping they would follow through on their threat.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the animal rights groups, made clear that it plans to continue hounding the pro quarterback.

“PETA and millions of decent football fans around the world are disappointed that the Eagles decided to sign a guy who hung dogs from trees. He electrocuted them with jumper cables and held them under water,” PETA spokesman Dan Shannon told the Associated Press. There was no doubt that Vick’s treatment of dogs was horrifying and I described such acts in detail in an August 27, 2007 column. http://www.georgecurry.com/columns /michael-vick-let-the-dogs-out But some so-called animal rights hypocrites remain critical of Vick while refusing to challenge state laws that provide licenses to those who hunt deer and other innocent animals. And the “animal rights” groups are not the only cowards.

As a nation, we like to say how much we believe in forgiveness and pat ourselves on the back for giving someone a second chance. In reality, however, there is a strong revenge streak that remains even after a person has paid for his or her offence.

Vick was the No. 1 draft pick in the 2001 draft. The Atlanta Falcons signed him to a 10-year, $130 million contract, making him the highest paid player in the league. After the dog fighting charges surfaced, Vick was banned indefinitely by the NFL and eventually filed for bankruptcy. He was part of underground dog fighting ring in rural Virginia and pled guilty to running an operation that killed at least eight dogs that failed to do well in test fights. He decided to plead guilty after his three co-defenders had agreed to testify against him. Vick served a year and a half in federal prison. During that period, he was visited by Tony Dungy, the former coach of the Indianapolis Colts.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has conditionally reinstated Vick on July 27, meaning the earliest he can play in the preseason is Aug. 27. The most inspiring part of the Vick saga is the role played by Eagle quarterback Donovan McNabb. He told ESPN.com, “I pretty much lobbied to get him here. I believe in second chances and what better place to get a second chance than here with this group of guys.”

When was the last time you lobbied your company to hire someone who could possibly replace you?

And McNabb’s enthusiasm rubbed off on Head Coach Andy Reid, who lobbied Team President Joe Banner and owner Jeffrey Lurie. The Eagles signed Vick to a two-year deal: $1.6 million and a second-year option worth $5.2 million, plus incentives that could total up to $3 over the two years of the contract.

Ironically, while the NFL is gradually bringing Vick back into acceptance, it has wasted no time exploiting his name. Even though Vick has yet to be fully reinstated, NFLShop.com is already selling replicates of Vick’s Eagles jersey. As sports blogger Jeff Schultz notes, “The NFL is not ready for Vick to be the face of the league –but it is ready for Vick to be the face on the ledger.”

Of course, the Eagles could have avoided an unneeded public controversy by staying away from Vick. While they don’t go looking for controversy, they don’t run from it. Don’t forget that this was a team that took a chance on controversial wide receiver Terrell Owens.

Another bright spot is that the National Humane Society has been acting humanely. It has accepted Vick’s offer to talk to youth about animal cruelty and will reserve judgment on whether’s he’s had a true change in heart.

Vick’s interview with James Brown Sunday night on “60 Minutes” was largely designed to win over some doubters. It was largely successful. It was clear to me that he was well-trained on how to deal with hostile questions.

BROWN: And the operation, Michael, that you pleaded guilty to bankrolling, to being a part of, engaged in barbarous treatment of the animals—beating them, shooting them, electrocuting them, drowning them. Horrific things, Michael.

VICK: It’s wrong, man. I don’t know how many times I gotta tell, I gotta say it. I mean, it was wrong. I feel, you know, I feel, you know, tremendous hurt behind what happened. And, you know, I should’ve took the initiative to stop it all. You know, and I didn’t. And I feel so bad about that now. And I know, you know, that I didn’t I didn’t step up. I wasn’t a leader.

BROWN: In any way, for those who may say it showed a lack of moral character because you didn’t stop it, you agree or disagree?

VICK: I agree.

Vick has repeatedly accepted fully responsibility, he has served his time in prison and is surrounded by talented people such as Tony Dungy. It’s time for PETA and others to call off the dogs.

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine and the NNPA News Service, is a key note speaker, moderator, and media coach. He can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com.

Another Side of the Maligned Joe Jackson

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George E. Curry, NNPA Columnist

In the non-stop hoopla surrounding the death of Michael Jackson, Joe Jackson has become the person everyone loves to hate. TV commentators drop all pretense of objectivity by openly dismissing him as a kook. They make fun of his admittedly incoherent answers. And though he was later proven correct, they laughed at his assertion that Michael Jackson may have been killed.

What made me take a second look at Joseph Jackson was a statement he made on “Larry King Live.” The elder Jackson said that he had recommended that his son be paid in euros rather than U.S. dollars for his upcoming concerts in London. That showed me that, as one of my elementary school teachers said, he was using his head for more than a hat rack.

And I began to think about what they said about the domineering fathers of Tiger Woods, Venus and Serena Williams and, in this case, the original Jackson Five. Yes, they were all pushy and ambitious fathers -- so pushy that they pushed their children right to the top of their respective professions.

Of course, Joe Jackson’s greatest claim to fame was not that he molded one of the most successful groups in music from the rough streets of Gary, Ind., but that he beat his kids. There were many stories told about Jackson pounding his kids with his fist when they made a mistake, of his throwing them against walls and, in one instance, holding Michael upside down by one leg and pummeling him.

If true, no one can condone such acts. However, lost in all the storytelling is that the Jackson Five became the first American group to have their first four singles rocket to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. And Michael and Janet went on to stardom as solo artists. If you’re going to talk about Joe Jackson, talk about the good as well as the bad.

The most interesting perspective of Joseph Jackson came from Michael in a fascinating speech he gave at Oxford University on March 21, 2001.

“You probably weren’t surprised to hear that I did not have an idyllic childhood,” he said. “The strain and tension that exists in my relationship with my own father is well documented. My father is a tough man and he pushed my brothers and me hard, from the earliest age, to be the best performers we could be. He had great difficulty showing affection. He never really told me he loved me. And he never really complimented me either. If I did a great show, he would tell me it was a good show. And if I did an OK show, he told me it was a lousy show.

“He seemed intent, above all else, on making us a commercial success. And at that he was more than adept.

My father was a managerial genius and my brothers and I owe our professional success, in no small measure, to the forceful way that he pushed us. He trained me as a showman and under his guidance I couldn’t miss a step.”

Looking at his father from the perspective of an adult, Michael said:

“I have started reflecting on the fact that my father grew up in the South, in a very poor family. He came of age during the Depression and his own father, who struggled to feed his children, showed little affection towards his family and raised my father and his siblings with an iron fist. Who could have imagined what it was like to grow up a poor Black man in the South, robbed of dignity, bereft of hope, struggling to become a man in a world that saw my father as subordinate. I was the first Black artist to be played on MTV and I remember how big a deal it was even then. And that was in the 80’s!

“My father moved to Indiana and had a large family of his own, working long hours in the steel mills, work that kills the lungs and humbles the spirit, all to support his family. Is it any wonder that he found it difficult to expose his feelings? Is it any mystery that he hardened his heart, that he raised the emotional ramparts? And most of all, is it any wonder why he pushed his sons so hard to succeed as performers, so that they could be saved from what he knew to be a life of indignity and poverty?”

He explained, “I am forced to think of my own father and despite my earlier denials, I am forced to admit that he must have loved me. He did love me, and I know that. There were little things that showed it.” Michael said for his own healing, he needed to forgive his father. “I have begun to see that even my father’s harshness was a kind of love, an imperfect love, to be sure, but love nonetheless. He pushed me because he loved me. Because he wanted no man ever to look down at his offspring. And now with time, rather than bitterness, I feel blessing. In the place of anger, I have found absolution. And in the place of revenge I have found reconciliation. And my initial fury has slowly given way to forgiveness.”

If Michael Jackson could forgive his father, why can’t everyone else? George E. Curry, former editor-inchief of Emerge magazine and the NNPA News Service, is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. He can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com.

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