Former New York Giants player Plaxico Burress was released from Oneida Correctional Facility in central New York this morning. His thriving football career was put on hold for the past two years as he served his sentence for carrying an unlicensed handgun into a NYC nightclub and accidentally shooting himself in the leg. Speaking briefly to reporters earlier, Burress said:
I just want to thank God for bringing me through one of the most trying times in my life. It's a beautiful day. It's a beautiful day to be reunited with my family. I want to go home and spend some quality time with them.
And although it sounds like his professional football career is the last thing on his mind, whether or not, or rather how soon, Burress will return to the NFL is the question on most fans' minds. The situation also begs the question: Should a convicted felon who has served his (or her) time be welcomed back into the world of professional sports?
Personally, I'd say it depends and should be judged on a case-by-case basis. For instance, Burress is being compared to Michael Vick, who was convicted and sentenced to almost two years in prison for running a cruel and inhuman dogfighting ring and then lying about it. His crime is obviously very different from -- but in some ways worse than -- the one Burress committed, and he was welcomed back with open arms by the NFL. So, it only seems that Burress should be given the chance to make a similar comeback.
Now, if an athlete had committed a murder or rape ... well, I wouldn't accept that felon being given a career replay. Hopefully, the NFL wouldn't accept it either.
Being given the opportunity to play any professional sport -- especially football, which is so incredibly well-paid -- is nothing short of a privilege. It seems that all too often, some athletes (like Burress) take that for granted and screw up big time. But at least in the case of Burress, after two years in jail, having to put his career on hold, and being away from his family (including a baby daughter who was born while he was in prison), I gotta believe he's learned his lesson. He must value what he once had so much more now. Judging from his words and his actions along the way (pleading guilty, for instance), it seems like he's truly a generally upstanding guy who deserves a second shot. The NFL -- and the fans -- should give it to him.
Do you think convicted felons who have served their time deserve to play professional sports?
Image via Ted Kerwin/Flickr