WASHINGTON -- Falcons quarterback Michael Vick "is not a
victim" and should be held responsible for his actions involving a
dogfighting ring in Virginia, the national president of the NAACP
"He absolutely must account for what he has done," Dennis
Courtland Hayes, interim president and CEO of the National
Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said in an
interview with The Associated Press. He had earlier given similar
comments to NBC's "Today" show.
But Hayes cautioned against condemning the Atlanta star too
"It's real clear that Mr. Vick himself would acknowledge that
he has made a mistake," Hayes said. "I think there is reason to
believe in his redemption."
Hayes' comments came a day after the head of the NAACP's Atlanta
chapter said Vick should be allowed to return to football after the
case is resolved.
"As a society, we should aid in his rehabilitation and welcome
a new Michael Vick back into the community without a permanent loss
of his career in football," Atlanta NAACP President R.L. White
Hayes said White and others who have come to Vick's defense are
expressing an overarching frustration with disparities in the
criminal justice system.
"People need to understand the backdrop as some in the
African-American community make their expressions of support,"
Hayes said. "That backdrop includes anger and distrust with the
criminal justice system that disproportionately pays attention to
African-Americans and Hispanics.
"While no dog deserves to be mistreated, the backdrop includes
the perception among some African-Americans that the criminal
justice system treats them like animals and that nobody seems
willing to do anything about the disparity."
Hayes, who said the national group did not have an official
position on the case, said he didn't want to speculate about
whether Vick was being treated differently because he is black.
"He may in fact be being treated better than some
African-Americans and Hispanics who don't have the resources and
financial means that he has," Hayes said. "On the other hand,
there might be some of a different race or different ethnicity who
might be treated a bit differently."
On Monday, Vick said through a lawyer that he will plead guilty
to a federal charge of conspiracy to travel in interstate commerce
in aid of unlawful activities and conspiracy to sponsor a dog in an
animal fighting venture.
Three Vick associates have pleaded guilty to the conspiracy
charge and say Vick provided virtually all the gambling and
operating funds for the "Bad Newz Kennels" dogfighting
enterprise. Two of them also said Vick participated in executing at
least eight underperforming dogs, raising the possibility of the
animal cruelty charges.