I support Michael Vick's reinstatement to the NFL and his signing with my home-town Eagles. It's not because I think he can help the team (which I do), and it's not because I believe that folks deserve second chances (which I do), but it's because I don't like unwritten rules.
Ever since Michael Vick was charged with his crimes he has followed the rules, doing just about everything right. He plead guilty rather than feign innocence while dragging the public through a trial. He has done his time in federal prison. He has apologized countless times in court, in public interviews, and in private. He has been working with the Humane Society and the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. He lost contracts and millions of dollars, and he hasn't complained about it one little bit. And he accepted an unguaranteed contract to perhaps play various offensive positions, none of which are called quarterback … the position at which he was named to the Pro Bowl three times.
Ever since being charged with terrible crimes, Vick has paid his debt to society and has followed the rules. But for many people following the rules is not enough. They seem to have another set of rules – unwritten rules – to which they expect Vick to adhere.
My question is this: what good is it to have rules if the rules are not enough? Is it fair to expect more from people than what the system – our system – asks of them?
Unwritten rules are heinous things. It is unwritten rules that maintain an infrastructure of racism and sexism in our country, rules that allow whites to act in one way but expect blacks to act in another way, rules that label outspoken men as "strong" and outspoken women as a certain word that rhymes with "witches."
Furthermore, unwritten rules render the written rules irrelevant, for what kind of return to society is possible for someone who is subject to unwritten rules that deny him employment or opportunity or second chances? What if every ex-convict were denied employment? What kind of society would ours be? If, owing to some unwritten legal code, we are unwilling to reintegrate into society an ex-con who has done his time, then perhaps we should get into the business of indefinite confinement or summary executions. Is that what we want? No. We are a nation of laws – written laws – and unwritten rules serve only to undermine the law and the system of justice it supports.
If you don't like folks like Vick re-entering society, then call your representatives in Washington and ask them to change the laws. But the written rules are all we got, and we had better work with them, or we risk undermining the justice contained within them.