Law, cultural expert available for comment

Vick indictment raises questions regarding the culture and socialization of professional athletes, NFL discipline, and the challenges of prosecuting celebrity defendants

“The situation does not look good for Michael Vick and his co-defendants,” says Christopher A. Bracey, associate professor of law and of African and African-American studies at Washington University in St. Louis. “Vick’s indictment on charges related to dog fighting contains multiple allegations of overt acts, and only one needs to be proven in order to sustain a conviction.” Bracey says that this indictment raises a number of cultural and legal questions. He is following the case and is available for interviews. His current comments are available below:

Christopher Bracey
Christopher Bracey

Editor’s note: Bracey is available for phone, e-mail and broadcast interviews. Washington University has VYVX and ISDN lines available free for news interviews.

NFL’s response:
“Vick’s indictment comes on the heels of efforts by the National Football League to crack down on player’s off-the-field activities,” he says. “It is unclear what action the League will take against Vick, although in the wake of punishments imposed on other players, the League will be hard pressed to ignore Vick’s case.”

Culture of pro athletics:
“Beyond the League’s response, there are a multitude of questions worth discussing,” Bracey says. “What, if anything, do the allegations against Vick tell us about certain cultural norms within professional athletics? Most professional athletes manage their success quite well. But there seems to be an increasing number of young professional athletes that exercise phenomenal judgment on the field, but atrocious judgment off the field.

“It pains me to see black men achieve personal and professional success, only to fail when it comes to managing that success over time. But perhaps more disconcerting is the fact that professional athletics appear less concerned about teaching its players how to manage success and most interested in exploiting them for maximum revenue.”

The legal process:
“It will be interesting to see if it is possible for Vick to get a fair trial, given all the press coverage of this set of events as well as his previous legal troubles,” Bracey says. “On the flipside, the prosecutor will face a unique set of challenges. Falcons training camp opens next week, and Vick is a bona-fide celebrity — at least during football season. For better or worse, celebrities tend to experience a very different criminal justice system than the average person. Rarely does celebrity status make it easier to obtain a conviction. Indeed, in most instances, it makes it far more difficult.”