Updated at 5:21 p.m.
President Obama praised Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie for giving NFL MVP candidate Michael Vick a second chance after his dog-fighting conviction.
Lurie told Peter King of NBC and Sports Illustrated that he recently received a phone call from Obama to talk about Vick and the Eagles' plans to install wind turbines and solar panels at Lincoln Financial Field.
"The president wanted to talk about two things, but the first was Michael,'' Lurie told King, who first reported on the conversation on NBC on Sunday night. "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."
White House Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton confirmed that Obama called Lurie and spoke to him about Vick.
"The president did place a call to Mr. Lurie to discuss plans for the use of alternative energy at Lincoln Financial Field, during which they spoke about that and other issues," Burton said."He 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."
Vick pleaded guilty in 2007 to federal charges related to running a dog-fighting ring in southern Virginia and served 21 months in prison. At the time, he was a standout quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons. Vick missed two seasons while in prison and lost millions of dollars in salary and canceled endorsement deals. The Falcons also released him.
Obama's decision to reveal his feelings about Vick's comeback is a curious one. Although Vick has largely been embraced by football fans, mostly because of his dazzling play, many animal-rights advocates are angry that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell decided not to ban Vick for life.
This isn't the first time that Obama has made his opinion known on a controversial issue that he could have easily avoided. Last year, the president said that police in Cambridge, Mass., acted "stupidly" in arresting noted African-American scholar Henry Louis Gates.
The Harvard professor was arrested after police received reports of a man forcibly trying to enter Gates's residence. The man turned out to be Gates, who was having trouble opening his front door. Cambridge Police said that he was not cooperative and was arrested on a disorderly conduct charge, which was eventually dropped. Obama later held a "beer summit" at the White House with Gates and the arresting officer.
Vick signed with the Eagles in 2009, but served as the backup quarterback in his comeback attempt. He has had a redemptive year on the playing field this season, leading the Eagles to a 10-4 record and a playoff berth.
He took over the play-calling earlier this year after quarterback Kevin Kolb was injured and performed so well in his absence that Eagles coach Andy Reid decided to stick with him even after Kolb was ready to return.
Since his conviction, Vick has also done work with the Humane Society and denounced dog fighting in speeches at schools.
Under the terms of his conviction, Vick is barred from owning an animal. But earlier this month, he told The Grio, a news website targeting African-American readers, that he would like to own a dog again.
"I think it would be a great step in my rehabilitation process," Vick told the website. "Just to have a pet in my household and show people that I genuinely care, [to show] my love and my passion for animals, I think, would be outstanding."