President Obama Touches Nerve, Praising Michael Vick's Second Chance

President praises Vick's second chance despite dogfighting conviction.

December 27, 2010, 6:37 PM

Dec. 27, 2010 -- His comeback from prison to NFL MVP contender is one of the more compelling stories in sports this year, or maybe ever.

And while Michael Vick is still reviled in many circles as the orchestrator of deadly dogfights, his return to professional form has none other than President Obama elevating the controversial quarterback as an example of the value of second chances.

Sports Illustrated columnist Peter King, in a column published Monday, quoted Philadelphia Eagles Owner Jeffrey Lurie as saying Obama called to congratulate him for giving Vick a second chance.

"The president wanted to talk about two things, but the first was Michael,'' Lurie said, according to King. "He said, 'So many people who serve time never get a fair second chance. He was ... passionate about it. He said it's never a level playing field for prisoners when they get out of jail. And he was happy that we did something on such a national stage that showed our faith in giving someone a second chance after such a major downfall.''

The White House confirmed Monday that Obama called Lurie, and that the two discussed the comeback of quarterback Michael Vick.

"He of course condemns the crimes that Michael Vick was convicted of, but, as he's said previously, he does think that individuals who have paid for their crimes should have an opportunity to contribute to society again," White House Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton told ABC News.

Vick's performance on the football field has been extraordinary, and he recently told ABC

News' Bob Woodruff that some of that success can be credited to his downfall.

"I think I'm better now as a player because God sent me to the bottom. And I'm a firm believer in karma, and I think it happened because of what I did and what I allowed to happen to those animals, so I was stripped of everything, stripped me down to the bone of everything and, you know, I think I took for granted the position that I was in in my life, all the blessings that I had, and that wasn't my purpose in life to be doing what I was doing and it was wrong," Vick said.

Obama Supports Second Chances for Prisoners

Obama has long been a big supporter of giving ex-prisoners the opportunity to redeem themselves, and has worked on legislation with that goal in mind.

In January, speaking at a town hall in Tampa about the Second Chance Act, which helps to place ex-offenders in the workplace, Obama said, "This is part of my faith, my religious faith, but you don't have to be religious to, I think, believe in the idea of redemption, that people can get a second chance, that people can change."

The president also spoke about Tiger Woods' very public troubles, telling People magazine that the golf pro could "absolutely" be rehabilitated.

"I'm a strong believer that anybody can look within themselves, find their flaws and fix them," Obama told People.

But Vick may be in a special category. He may have a winning record, but this summer, albeit before he was the starting Eagles quarterback, Vick topped Forbes' list of "Most Hated Athletes."

When the dogfighting ring that Vick was a part of came apart, he served 19 months in prison, lost his job as the quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons and was the subject of some extremely harsh criticism, such as that from the late Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., who gave an emotional speech on the Senate floor about Vick and dogfighting in 2007.

But Vick promised to become a spokesman against dogfighting and to work with the Humane Society.

Controversy continues to surround Vick, even as he tries to rebuild his reputation off the field. There was an uproar this month, for instance, when Vick said he might want to own a dog in the future.

While the president is rooting for Vick's second chance, he'll likely also be rooting for him to lose in the NFL playoffs. Vick's Eagles could very well face Obama's beloved Chicago Bears in the first round.

ABC News' Sunlen Miller contributed to this report.

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