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Sports Ethics Professor Comments on the Comebacks of Michael Vick and Ben Roethlisberger

ITHACA, NY — This Thursday, Jan. 27, Michael Vick’s first paid endorsement contract since he got out of prison will be made public. Meanwhile, Ben Roethlisberger is getting ready for his third Super Bowl. Is all forgiven?

In the case of Vick — maybe. Unequal Technologies, the company that manufactured the vest Vick wore after returning from a rib injury, signed Vick to an undisclosed but “sizable” endorsement — the first of such agreements for Vick since he was released from federal prison after serving 18 months on dog-fighting charges. The endorsement deal was quite a comeback for an ex-con who started the Eagles’ 2009 season as a third-string quarterback and was selected to be the NFC’s starting quarterback in this year’s Pro Bowl.

And maybe also in the case of Ben Roethlisberger, another disgraced quarterback who was accused last March of sexual assault by a 20-year-old coed. Though he never faced criminal charges, Roethlisberger served a four-game league-mandated suspension at the beginning of the 2010 season. Now at the season’s end, Roethlisberger is leading the Steelers to their eighth Super Bowl. He also claims to have turned his life around in the process.

But the question begs to be asked: If the two stars hadn’t performed so well on the field, would they have returned to grace so soon — if at all? According to Stephen Mosher, professor of sport management and media at Ithaca College, there’s no maybe about it.

“From my perspective, Roethlisberger, along with Brett Favre, has gotten away with contemptible behavior,” Mosher said. “It says a lot about the misogyny of the NFL. Vick, on the other hand, is as much a victim of the circumstances of his birth as he is of the South’s long history of blood sports that define authentic manhood. For the record, dog fighting wasn’t even a crime in Virginia until after World War II. And, only recently was it upgraded from a misdemeanor to a felony.”

Exploring the antithetical notions that sport builds character but also teaches cheating, Mosher’s research examines what it means to say, “sport is good for you.” An authority on sport ethics and moral development as well as sport heroes and villains, Mosher has shared his insights with numerous media outlets, including “Sports Illustrated,” where he discussed the implications of Lance Armstrong’s alleged doping, and, for which he wrote a series of columns on the Little League World Series scandal.