Monday, February 7, 2011 Updated: February 8, 8:11 AM ET
Wrong door opened for Michael Vick
By Calvin Watkins ESPNDallas.com
At some point this past Saturday, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick was getting the key to a city. Not from Philadelphia or Atlanta or his hometown of Newport News, Va.
He was getting the key to the city of Dallas.
By giving Michael Vick a key to the city, Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway is recognizing the quarterback's message of adversity the wrong way.
As you know, Vick returned to the NFL in 2009 after a league-mandated suspension stemming from a 23-month federal prison sentence for his involvement in an illegal dogfighting ring. He served 18 months in federal prison and time in home confinement, and was released from custody in July 2009.
We all know the horrific tales of what Vick and his friends did to those dogs. He has paid his legal debt to society and has been forgiven by some.
And this is why Dallas councilman and Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway entered the picture.
Vick was in town over the weekend to speak to at-risk kids about staying in school, avoiding drugs and treating animals right, especially dogs. It's the same speech Vick has given at countless schools and recreation centers across the country.
Caraway said Vick's story is inspirational, one that kids will listen to. Caraway believes kids won't listen to people with suits and ties when it comes to avoiding trouble, but rather will take the advice of athletes, especially those who have dealt with adversity.
"The message and the kids are far greater than all this response about, 'Why give him the key to the city?'" Caraway told ESPN Dallas on Monday afternoon. "He is telling kids and exchanging with them the rights and wrongs of the things that he did and encouraging kids to further their education and to not deal with the drugs. To obey their parents and pick the people they hang around. That's a message I would challenge anybody to say that not one kid across America shouldn't hear from people in notoriety such as Michael Vick."
Caraway is wrong for doing this.
This is nothing against Vick, who also was named The Associated Press Comeback Player of the Year the same day he received the key to the city. But this is about using people in the right way.
This is not how you use Vick.
There were all sorts of athletes in town for the Super Bowl. I ran into Los Angeles Angels outfielder Torii Hunter at a party Saturday night. He would have been a good candidate to receive the key to the city. How about Dallas native Spud Webb or another former NBA player such as Greg Anthony, currently a basketball commentator?
What about local athletes? Felix Jones? DeMarcus Ware? Jason Witten? Michael Young (as long as he's still with us)? Miles Austin? Andre Gurode? Tyson Chandler?
Guys who have bounced back from their own types of adversity, maybe not the ones Vick returned from, but enough to say they have a good story to tell.
Honor those guys.
Caraway said Vick's return from his problems is the primary reason for getting the key to the city, in conjunction with addressing the kids.
Deion Sanders was in Lancaster, Texas, on Saturday with his Truth U foundation, coaching a youth football game against rapper Snoop Dogg. Sanders was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday. Maybe Sanders should get a key to the city. After all, he's also mentoring kids in Dallas.
Most pro athletes speak to kids. But they don't get the key to the city unless they've won some sort of championship.
Vick should be given all sorts of credit for rebuilding his image, but he shouldn't have received the key to the city.
Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert said in a statement that Caraway acted without his knowledge and that the action was not an official ceremonial honor on behalf of the city.
The city awards two types of keys. The major one is handed out by the mayor, but a secondary one, such as the one Vick received, could be given to anyone by any council member.
Still, a recognition of Vick by the city should have been avoided.
He did the right thing by speaking to the kids. It's just that Caraway didn't need to give him an additional honor.
"It seems like a bunch of adults are ticked off about it, but tomorrow in America, these kids will be in charge," Caraway said. "These kids need to hear things that are positive. So you take a negative and you turn it into a positive because instead of beating down on the man, instead of lifting him up, then what hopes will these children have?"
Nothing wrong with Vick's message. Just the way in which he was recognized.
Calvin Watkins covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com.