Ron Artest was given the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award in 2011. Michael Vick returned to football as a celebrated, almost sympathetic media darling. Lance Armstrong went to Oprah to deliver a half-hearted apology, assuming the empty gesture would once again deify him. It's a calculated media relations play and often it works.
The public—but especially the sports media—loves a comeback story. If Michael Vick is anything short of a repeat offender, he's effectively the ultimate redemption story, which is complete horseshit. Many of these guys have paid their debt to society and there's no reason to punish them further, but they shouldn't be on a pedestal, either. In reality, these aren't misunderstood folk heroes. They're flawed human beings who happen to be incredibly athletic.