By Jason Whitlock
The Kansas City Star
July 20, 2007
KANSAS CITY, Mo. â€” Honestly, I don't wish jail on the people who despise me the most. Incarceration is that dehumanizing.
So forgive me for lacking passion about the guilt, innocence and/or punishment of one-time franchise quarterback Michael Vick for his alleged involvement in a dogfighting ring. Hell â€” given that the state, if inclined, can make a blind witness' vision 20/20 â€” I'm even willing to give Vick his presumption of innocence.
Why not? He is an American citizen, last I checked, and we don't need to look any further than Duke lacrosse to see what can happen to a prosecutor when the media spotlight descends on a criminal case.
Nope. My desire is to see Vick evolve as a human being and for his troubles to serve as yet another wakeup call for black athletes to reject the hip-hop /prison culture that glorifies much of the negative behavior and attitude that has eroded the once-dignified and positive reputation of black athletes.
As much as I love dogs â€” and I really do have an affinity for them â€” this case primarily repulses me because I believe Vick got involved with breeding vicious pit bulls because rap-music culture made it the cool thing to do.
Listen, I don't want PETA supporters upset with me. Animal cruelty is intolerable. But I'm wondering what could turn a human mind and heart so cold that a person would find pleasure in breeding dogs for cruel destruction.
Seriously, Vick didn't do it for the money. The Atlanta Falcons gave him all the money he could ever hope to spend. Vick was involved in pit bull breeding (and quite possibly dogfighting) because he enjoyed it. He's a product of a culture that makes the "profession" acceptable and honorable. It's the same culture that has turned the dope dealer into mayor of the neighborhood.
This is a human tragedy, too.
It speaks to the grip the negative aspects of hip-hop culture have on young people. Vick is a millionaire athlete who has spent most of his NFL career trying to maintain his street cred. Despite lifetime financial security, Mike Vick stayed on the "grind," hustling for that paper with his Bad Newz Kennels. Idiot.
Well, unless he plans on launching a rap career and releasing a solo "Dogfighting Was The Case," I don't see any of this ending well for Vick. Even if he's not convicted or reaches a jail-evading plea bargain, Vick has destroyed his athletic reputation while trying to keep pace with T.I.
This is a cultural phenomenon that has swallowed a small percentage of black athletes, but a large enough percentage to significantly damage the overall perception of black, American-born athletes. As Dr. Harry Edwards told me two weeks ago, it only takes a few key people to hijack an entire culture.
N.W.A., the late-1980s rap group, hijacked hip-hop years ago, and calls to return it to something resembling decency and self-respect have fallen on Def Jam ear$. Allen Iverson and his sneaker/jersey sales hijacked the image of black professional athletes years ago, and out of fear of being labeled a racist or a sellout, few have even dared question the sanity of it ... until now.
Now we can all see the stupidity. Gangsta-wannabe rappers masquerading as professional athletes is a public-relations nightmare waiting to tear apart sports franchises and leagues.
Vick's employer is in an impossible position. The right thing for the Falcons to do is support Vick through his legal proceedings. But how can the organization? Vick is a human distraction now. Atlanta has a new coaching staff that will find it nearly impossible to operate smoothly in the environment/media circus Vick has created for the organization.
Heck, even Al Sharpton and Russell Simmons joined in the castigation of Vick and dogfighting, penning a joint letter with PETA that was sent to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and all of Vick's corporate sponsors.
True, the letter wasn't all that harsh, but the fact that Sharpton would in any way publicly hold a black person responsible for any action is historic.
And, if you have a scorebook at home, we now know that Russell Simmons is adamantly opposed to the killing and brutalization of dogs, but he is in favor of the glorification of killing black men in music. I'm just passing that along without any editorial comment.
OK, where was I? Yes, the Falcons might as well name Paris Hilton cheerleading captain.
If Vick were to play this season, the fan hostility directed at Vick would engulf Atlanta's home stadium.
Vick needs a paid leave of absence to sort out his legal problems.
He shouldn't be suspended or denied pay because the Falcons and the NFL have invested too much in Vick to treat him like Pacman Jones.
That's right. I don't believe in treating everyone the same. I believe in treating everyone fairly. Suspending Vick would be too prejudicial (legal term, not a race term) and inhibit his ability to receive a fair trial.
If he's convicted of a felony, the Falcons probably have provisions within his contract that would grant them the right to release him and go after a portion of his signing bonus if they so choose.
Ray Lewis was at the scene of a double murder, failed initially to cooperate with police and eventually pled guilty to obstruction of justice charges. Ray used to be in love with his street cred, too. It took double-murder charges to knock some sense into one of the game's best linebackers.
He evolved, and he's certainly been an asset to the NFL ever since his evolution. Will the same thing happen to Michael Vick? I doubt it, but I certainly hope so.
Show me a good loser, and I'll show you a loser.
"None are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm".
Henry David Thoreau
Fail to prepare and you prepare to fail.
"Luck is the residue of design." - Branch Rickey