ESPN Wonders: What if Michael Vick Were White?

Posted: Aug 26, 2011 2:02 PM

The absurdity of the very premise of this ESPN The Magazine piece radiates from its headline on down -- as even its author sheepishly admits.  (If you're unfamiliar with the Vick dogfighting controversy, consult this user-friendly timeline).  Sometimes columns of this nature simply must be read to be believed, so without further ado, an excerpt from the latest (remarkably untimely) installment of the race-obsession chronicles:

Vick seems to have a deeply African-American approach to the game. I'm not saying that a black QB who stands in the pocket ain't playing black. I'm saying Vick's style is so badass, so artistic, so fluid, so flamboyant, so relentless -- so representative of black athletic style -- that if there were a stat for swagger points, Vick would be the No. 1 quarterback in the league by far.

Race is an undeniable and complex element of Vick's story, both because of his style as well as the rarity of black QBs in the NFL. A decade after he became the first black QB to be drafted No. 1 overall, about one in five of the league's passers is African-American, compared with two-thirds of all players. But after his arrest for dogfighting, so many people asked: Would a white football player have gotten nearly two years in prison for what Vick did to dogs?

The columnist, who goes by the pen name "Toure," asserts that the question itself is facile and cringe-inducing...but goes on to explore it anyway:

...Would a white kid have been introduced to dogfighting at a young age and have it become normalized to the extent that he builds it into his life after he joins the NFL? It's possible, but it's far less likely because what made Vick stand out among dogfighters is less race than class. The deep pockets of an NFL star led to a kennel that was too big not to fail eventually. But if it did, though, would this white kid have been busted? Remember, it wasn't suspicion of dogfighting that started the investigation that put Vick in jail. It was that element that we've all seen hold back or bring down so many athletes from the hood -- the entourage. Vick's cousin Davon Boddie was arrested and charged with possession of marijuana with intent to sell in Hampton, Va. When police asked him for his address, he led them to the home where Bad Newz Kennels was located. After that, Vick never had a chance.

Just in case this piece hadn't completely jumped the shark on its own, ESPN tasked its crack graphics team with imagining what a white Michael Vick would look like.  Really.  Ta da:

Intolerance in Academia
Walter E. Williams  The very best response to this head-scratcher comes via Twitter's @JoeSportsFan:

Well played.