President Barack Obama has praised NFL team owner Jeffrey Lurie for employing Michael Vick, who served an 18-month prison sentence for his involvement in a dog-fighting ring before returning to play for the Philadelphia Eagles.
According to Sports Illustrated, the President commended Lurie during a recent phone conversation, saying that "it's never a level playing field for prisoners when they get out of jail." Obama told Lurie that Vick's success on a national stage shows that criminals who serve their debt to society should receive a second chance.
On Dec. 27, the Obama administration confirmed the conversation between the President and Lurie. Bill Burton, a White House spokesman, said that Obama condemns the crimes that Vick was convicted of, but he believes that individuals who have paid for their crimes should have another opportunity to contribute to society.
Burton also told media outlets that the primary reason for Obama's phone call was to discuss alternative-energy sources used at the team's stadium. Ezra Klein of The Washington Post has criticized the administration for spinning the initial context of the call in an effort to quell any public backlash regarding Obama's comments about Vick.
"For the White House to now say that the call was really about energy efficiency in stadium design both makes Obama look a bit Carteresque — does he really have time to be worrying about the energy efficiency of football stadiums? — and blunts whatever impact the call itself could have had," Klein wrote. "That was a call either worth making or not worth making, but it definitely wasn't worth making if the President wasn't willing to stand behind it."