The public apology of professional football player Michael Vick regarding his involvement in an illegal dogfighting operation is raising skepticism among conservatives and the media.
While he took "full responsibility" for his actions, pleading guilty to a federal charge of conspiracy and involvement in the killing of at least six dogs, the Atlanta Falcons' star quarterback went further to say he has found Jesus.
"I'm upset with myself and, you know, through this situation I found Jesus and asked him for forgiveness and turned my life over to God," he said in a statement on Monday. "I think that's the right thing to do as of right now."
Not everyone was convinced.
"The statement that Michael Vick has found Jesus is laughable," said the Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson in a statement on Tuesday. "Like other celebrities before him, Vick is evoking Jesus' name to stop the criticism and gain public sympathy. True believers recognize the hypocrisy in what he's doing."
"'Jesus' is the most abused name in black America and Vick is following a long line of abusers," the conservative radio talk show host continued. "We can no longer allow celebrities and politicians to break laws and then use 'Jesus' as a get-out-of-jail free card. Most of these people go right back into their bad behavior and criminal activities as soon as the storm passes."
Another skeptic of Vick's sincerity, Tim Wildmon, president of the conservative American Family Association, posed on a less harsh note, "You wonder, what's the motivation for making a public statement? Is it sincere, or are they doing it to gain something from it?
"It gets personal in trying to understand someone's faith at times so they may say the right things, but you don't really know what they mean by it," said Wildmon, according to Cybercast News Service.
Vick had made continuous references to his Christian faith throughout his football career in statements and his touchdown signal of pointing to the sky, which for many athletes signifies their thanks to God.
And while FoxNews.com's vice president and executive producer, Mike Straka, had been expecting it, he was surprised to have heard Vick profess "finding Jesus" before imprisonment.
"It took Paris Hilton a few hours in the slammer before she met Jesus, and Vick does it even before lockup. Who knew?" wrote Straka.
The Vick case began in late April when authorities seized dozens of dogs, some injured, and equipment commonly used in dogfighting from Vick's home. The authorities were conducting a drug investigation of Vick's cousin when they raided the football star's property.
In his plea, Vick apologized for initially lying about his involvement in illegal dogfighting and expressed regret for being a poor example to all his young fans. Vick pleaded guilty after his three co-defendants eventually pleaded guilty.
The pro-football star could go to prison for one to five years. His sentence will be handed down on Dec. 10.
Vick has already been suspended indefinitely by the NFL. Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank and Falcons general manager Rich McKay refused to say whether Vick would ever play for the Falcons again, according to The Associated Press. A Gallup poll found that a majority of NFL fans say Vick should never play again in the NFL.
Many fans, however, still showed support for the quarterback, whom they described as an electrifying player.
"I want to apologize to all the young kids out there for my immature acts," said Vick. "What I did was very immature, so that means I need to grow up. I totally ask for forgiveness and understanding as I move forward to bettering Michael Vick the person, not the football player. I take personal responsibility for my actions."