They got it, to an extent. In July 2007, federal authorities slammed Vick with felony charges. The following month, the 29-year-old was convicted of conspiracy and running a dog-fighting organization and served 18 months in prison.
Prior to the dog fighting scandal, Vick had held the title of highest paid player in the NFL. Having been considered for the Heisman Trophy during his freshman year at Virginia Tech, he was known as one of the league's rising stars and most formidable quarterbacks. Now, he's playing ball again for the Philadelphia Eagles, but forgiveness isn't going to come easy. Protesters descended on Eagles practices earlier this year, holding high signs reading messages including "Hide Your Beagle, Vick's an Eagle."
Here's the thing: if you excel at sports and screw up in your personal life but put things back together well enough that you can bring it on the field, the course, the court -- whatever your arena -- you'll rise again. No athlete proves that theory more than Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant, who in the summer of 2003 was arrested and accused of raping a 19-year-old hotel employee. In the wake of the investigation that ensued, Bryant's reputation plummeted. Sponsors, including McDonalds, cut off his endorsement contracts. But in September 2004, prosecutors dropped the assault case after the employee refused to testify in a trial. Still, Bryant agreed to apologize for the incident, hung his head publicly and bought his wife, Vanessa, a rock of a diamond ring for sticking by his side through the ordeal.
Then, he got back to the game. In the 2005-2006 season, Bryant helped bring the Lakers back to the NBA playoffs. In January 2006, he became the first player since 1964 to score 45 points or more in four consecutive games. The next season, Bryant earned his second career All-Star Game Most Valuable Player trophy. He followed that up in May 2008 by scoring the NBA MVP award. Finally, in 2009, Bryant helped the Lakers cinch their first NBA Championship trophy in seven years, and won the title of NBA Finals MVP in the process.
Yes, many fans agree that Woods ought to apologize and come clean about his "transgressions." But the man isn't a God. He's just a golf player, albeit a spectacular one.
As Bryant's case shows, as long as Woods can keep swinging that club on the course, the current drumbeat of bad publicity will fade into the ether and his athleticism will roar once again.