HONOLULU — President Barack Obama doesn't seem to shy away from the divisive social and cultural topics that Americans are debating in their living rooms, gyms and workplaces.
He has spoken out about the responsibility of fathers to raise their children, has condemned the arrest of a prominent black Harvard professor who said he was the victim of racial profiling, was heard chastising Kanye West for the rapper's rude behavior at the MTV Video Music Awards, and recently said his views on gay marriage were "evolving" from his previous opposition.
On Monday, the buzz was about how the president had weighed in on the redemption of Michael Vick. Obama phoned the owner of the Philadelphia Eagles to praise the team for giving a second chance to the quarterback, who is again an NFL star 19 months after leaving prison for his role in a dogfighting ring that killed pit bulls by electrocution, hanging and drowning.
Obama has not spoken publicly about the call, though aides acknowledged that it took place. Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie told Peter King of Sports Illustrated and NBC Sports that during their conversation Obama was passionate about Vick's comeback.
"He said, 'So many people who serve time never get a fair second chance,' " said Lurie, who did not say when the call occurred. "He said, 'It's never a level playing field for prisoners when they get out of jail.' And he was happy that we did something on such a national stage that showed our faith in giving someone a second chance after such a major downfall."
Bill Burton, a White House spokesman, said Obama "of course condemns the crimes that Michael Vick was convicted of, but, as he's said previously, he does think that individuals who have paid for their crimes should have an opportunity to contribute to society again."
Burton said Obama called Lurie in part to discuss plans for the use of alternative energy at Lincoln Financial Field, where the Eagles play.
Vick, whom endorsers shunned after the dogfighting controversy, is now the pitchman for a Nissan dealer in Woodbury, N.J., outside Philadelphia. But the general manager of the dealership acknowledged in an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer that he had taken criticism for embracing the quarterback.
Fans in Philadelphia and elsewhere have generally stopped bringing anti-Vick signs to games as they did last year, but Vick's emergence as one of the league's top players has revived debate about whether he should be so enthusiastically embraced less than two years after he left prison.
Vick pleaded guilty in 2007 to the dogfighting charges and served a 19-month sentence.