ESPN's Photo of 'White' Michael Vick Is Disgraceful

Michael VickIt shouldn't be news that ESPN ran a photo of Michael Vick on its website. He's the quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles. Of course EPSN would talk about him. Only in this photo, Michael Vick is white

The image is plastered above an article about the role Vick's skin color has played in his re-emergence as one of the NFL's top quarterbacks after spending 19 months in prison for running a dogfighting kennel in his native Virginia. The headline is almost as incendiary: "What If Michael Vick Was White?"


It's too bad ESPN chose that route. The "let's start a fight" route. The "let's drag Michael down into a race war" route.

I'm a proud Hokie. And I'm far from Michael's biggest fan. But ESPN owes the man an apology.

The article itself is fine. Better than fine. It's a carefully crafted, nuanced article about race in America. Author Toure points out the advantages Vick's race has given him in his game. He explains that being a man of color is part of who the quarterback is. Both good points that fly in the face of the headline and photograph. Michael Vick has enjoyed successes because of who he is.

But Toure also says exactly what I think each time people ask if Vick would still be castigated for his role at Bad Newz Kennels if he were white:

Whiteness comes with great advantages, but it's not a get-out-of-every-crime-free card. Killing dogs is a heinous crime that disgusts and frightens many Americans. I'm certain white privilege would not be enough to rescue a white NFL star caught killing dogs.

White privilege certainly exists in America. I'm white, and I can admit that. But Michael Vick's path back to the limelight has been about taking responsibility for what he did, not casting blame elsewhere.

He can't blame his race for his decision to hurt defenseless animals. And to his credit: he hasn't. Case in point: The Michael Vick Project was produced by Vick's fiancee Kijafa Frink. It was obviously created to cast Michael in the best light possible. He gave his involvement in dogfighting some context in explaining that he grew up in a place where it was the norm. But he made it clear that he was warned by people he trusted that he should turn away from it, and he never did.

It isn't ESPN's job to help rebuild Michael Vick's image. But they could let his successes stand on their own instead of diminishing them with a cheap shot at pageviews.

Are you a Vick fan? Is this fair?


Image via warpafx/Flickr

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