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NFL should let Vick play after sentence, NAACP says


ATLANTA -- An NAACP leader said Michael Vick should be allowed to return to the
NFL, preferably the Atlanta Falcons, after serving his sentence for
his role in a dogfighting operation.

"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," said R.L. White, president of the
NAACP's Atlanta chapter. "We further ask the NFL, Falcons, and the
sponsors not to permanently ban Mr. Vick from his ability to bring
hours of enjoyment to fans all over this country."

White said the Falcons quarterback is a human being who has made
a mistake and should be allowed to prove that he has learned from
that mistake.

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 nearly 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.


Last month, state and local leaders of the National Association
for the Advancement of Colored People urged the public not to rush
to judgment in the Vick case. The civil rights organization said
animal rights groups, talk radio and the news media were vilifying
the embattled athlete, and that his team and corporate sponsors
were prematurely punishing Vick.

White said the Atlanta chapter supports Vick's decision to
accept a plea bargain if it's in his best interest, but he
questioned the credibility of Vick's co-defendants, saying an
admission of guilt might be more about cutting losses than the
truth.

"At this point, you're not looking at guilt or innocence,"
White said, referring to the possible harsher sentence Vick could
have received had he taken his case to trial and been found guilty.
"You're thinking, 'What I better do is cut my losses and take a
plea.' But if he saw this as the best thing to do at this point for
his future, then I think he made the correct choice."

White said he regretted that the plea deal will mean all the
facts of the case might never be known.

"Some have said things to save their own necks," White said.
"Michael Vick has received more negative press than if he had
killed a human being."

White said he does not support dogfighting and that he considers
it as bad as hunting.

"His crime is, it was a dog," White said.