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U.S. | Racial Justice

The High-Tech Lynching of Michael Vick
by Revolution Newspaper ( revolution.sfbureau [at] gmail.com )
Monday Sep 3rd, 2007 3:36 PM
Going after Vick doesn’t really have to do with him committing a crime, nor was it a case of PETA vs. Michael Vick. There’s more to it. It seems that a decision had been made to take Vick down by those who are “higher than the team and lower than God.” Many describe what’s happening to Vick as a high-tech lynching, and it is being played out before the eyes of the nation.
Revolution received this correspondence from a reader:

I’ve been following what is going down with the case of Michael Vick, the star quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons who recently pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to operate a dog-fighting enterprise across state lines. A couple of weeks ago an attorney I know asked me my opinion about the controversy. I only knew what had been pumped out by the media, but because sports is an arena where ideas, values, and relations in society get concentrated, I wanted to understand the situation better.

After looking into it, I realized that going after Vick doesn’t really have to do with him committing a crime, nor was it a case of PETA vs. Michael Vick. There’s more to it. It seems that a decision had been made to take Vick down by those who are “higher than the team and lower than God.” Many describe what’s happening to Vick as a high-tech lynching, and it is being played out before the eyes of the nation.

When Vick was recruited by the Falcons, he signed the richest contract in NFL history. The quarterback is usually considered the leader of the team, and there have been very few Black quarterbacks in the NFL. According to the attorney I know, “There’s no one who can play quarterback like Vick.” Vick was definitely a symbol of pride for Black Atlanta, and Black people more widely.

But now that symbol has been taken down. Nike, Coca-Cola, AirTran, and Kraft dropped him. Reebok stopped selling his No. 7 jersey. Donruss pulled his trading card from its sets. After Vick’s plea deal, the NFL suspended him. The prosecutors will reportedly recommend a sentence of a year to 18 months at the December sentencing (the maximum he could get is 5 years). There is a basic recognition in Black America that his career is over.

Many people, while not condoning the brutal treatment of dogs, feel the punishment of Vick doesn’t fit the crime. Other pro athletes have been accused of worse crimes and faced less severe consequences. There have been ugly attacks in the media against Vic—and openly KKK-type shit on the internet calling for Vick to be lynched, beaten, and “neutered.” Rick Morrissey of the Chicago Tribune wrote, “We are more aghast at Vick’s crimes against animals than athletes’ crimes against women. And that is criminal.” My attorney acquaintance said, “Where was all the outrage over the hundreds of Black people who’ve been lynched? What has been the punishment for those who committed that crime?” Juanita Abernathy, widow of civil rights figure Ralph Abernathy, said, “You would think that Michael Vick is the largest criminal this country has ever encountered, by the media play.”

News clip after news clip show gory details of the killing of dogs by various means, attributing all this to Vick long before he agreed to a guilty plea on a conspiracy charge. I don’t minimize the cruel, repugnant nature of dog fighting. But this mad rush to condemn Vick has been bloodthirsty itself. A YouTube video shows a dog tearing up a toy stuffed person, with the name “Vick” written on it—conjuring up images of dogs in the South tracking down runaway slaves, gleeful white people waiting for the lynching to happen, or vicious police dogs attacking Black civil rights protesters. You hear many Black people say, “Would all this happen if Vick were white?”

This is not the first time Vick has been publicly flogged in the media. In January of this year Vick was detained by Miami International Airport security for carrying a bottle that they claimed contained “a small amount of dark particulate and a pungent aroma closely associated with marijuana.” He was not arrested and not charged with anything. Lab tests found no evidence of drugs. But the Atlanta Journal Constitution wrote, “It shouldn’t matter. Vick hasn’t grown up and there’s no reason to believe he ever will.” Tony McClean, a writer for BlackAthlete Sports Network, brought out, “I know some folks will say, ‘Well, he is a public person and should be used to that kind of scrutiny.’ No disrespect, but scrutiny is one thing and character assassination is just something else.”

My attorney acquaintance said that Vick “played stupid”—that he didn’t watch his P’s and Q’s and play the ideal “role model.” But the high-tech lynching of Michael Vick has to be put in the context of what’s going on overall—things like Michael Richards (of the Seinfeld show fame) doing a whole racist rant onstage at a comedy club, using the “n” word and threatening an audience member with lynching. Or what’s happening with the Jena 6, Black high school students who are facing years in jail for standing up against entrenched racism (while white students who hung lynching nooses on a school tree got slaps on the wrist).

There’s a conversation running throughout the Black community and sports world, from newspapers to the internet, radio talk shows, and barber shops: One of the most talented Black athletes rose to the highest ranks of the sports world, and then was torn all the way down in a second by the media, the police, and the courts. Not only is a clear message being sent that Black people can’t get justice under this system, but a green light is being given to vicious, open racism.

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by Luigi999
Monday Sep 3rd, 2007 11:51 PM
Vick is a sadistic monster that should serve a minimum of 5 years in prison for his crimes. He should also be banned for life from ever again playing in the NFL. Only a total moron would conclude otherwise.
by D. A.
Tuesday Sep 4th, 2007 2:33 AM
As always, a black person defending another black person and blaming racism rather than reason.. I'm sure it was old whitey that forced Michael Vick into dog fighting. blah blah blah.. get a new defense, this one is worn out.
by Cynthia
Tuesday Sep 4th, 2007 6:59 AM
What a dumb article. Everyone loved Vick for his athletic abilities (and he was black then, don't forget), until they learned of his sick and sadistic behavior -- get it? He deserves to be punished, unless you're saying that blacks should get a pass when they commit crimes. That's even dumber than Vick throwing away his once-incredible future.
by Kay Pierce
Tuesday Sep 4th, 2007 8:06 AM
I don't think the public sentiment has anything to do with Michael Vick's being black. I think it does have to do with his heinous acts and the fact that he is a celebrity. People are getting sick and tired of anyone rich and famous getting away with terrible behavior.
I am agast at the scope of what he did to the animals under his care. They had terrible lives and were executed if they didn't perform to his liking. Your article mentioned slavery. That was an abhorrant practice and I think Vick is repeating it with his animal operation.
I think the only good thing to come of this is that because of his high profile and celebrity, it has brought public attention to the fact that dogfighting still exists and I think the public has shown that it will not tolerate it. I hope they catch more people who are engaging in this illegal activity. I don't care what color they are-only that they be stopped.
by Revolution Newspaper
Tuesday Sep 4th, 2007 10:39 AM
(Sorry, I didn't realize that my submission required new line characters to define paragraphs so I'm resubmitting to .)

The assertion is that Vick was victimized because he was black. However, the “logic” given to support this thesis is easily seen to be invalid.

- a number of similar articles have also said something like your, “Other pro athletes have been accused of worse crimes and faced less severe consequences.” However, when examples were given, the athletes were all black. So clearly, any alleged inequality was not due to anti-black motives. One example commonly given is Ray Lewis’s alleged involvement in murder. There was huge outrage/attention given at the time and it only dissipated due to lack of evidence and the charge being changed to obstruction of justice. The question should always just focus on whether the crime deserves the punishment – 12 to 18 months for dealing out horrific pain to many, many animals over a prolonged period seems, if anything, lenient to me.

- Nike, Coca-Cola, AirTran, Kraft, Reebok and the NFL can hardly be accused of racism. All these companies were badly hurt by Vick’s cruel behavior and wish it had never happened or come to light. They all reluctantly cut ties with Vick simple because it would have been bad for business. They pay huge amounts of money to many, many blacks despite they're often being flawed.

- The outrage was due to the brutal and prolonged nature of the crime. The extensive coverage was also due to the brutal and prolonged nature of the crime PLUS the celebrity status of Vick. Regarding the celebrity aspect, take Paris Hilton whose offenses were nowhere close to being in the same league as Vick’s, but where the coverage was so extensive for awhile that it was difficult to get any real news. Note that Paris Hilton and a host of other badly (but not cruelly) behaving celebrities who have periodically monopolized the news are not black.

In this and many other similar articles, there is just one, “throwaway” line about the animals - for example, your “Many people, while not condoning the brutal treatment of dogs, feel the punishment of Vick doesn’t fit the crime” The rest of the article focuses on the “injustice” done to Vick. I begin to reluctantly worry that Vick’s attitude toward animals is pervasive in the community. You callously write, “I realized that going after Vick doesn’t really have to do with him committing a crime.” Your attorney says, “Vick “played stupid”—that he didn’t watch his P’s and Q’s and play the ideal ‘role mode’l.” Most people would have said that Vick was very cruel and his flaw was much more serious than “not watching his Ps and Qs”.

The conclusion, “One of the most talented Black athletes rose to the highest ranks of the sports world, and then was torn all the way down in a second by the media, the police, and the courts. Not only is a clear message being sent that Black people can’t get justice under this system, but a green light is being given to vicious, open racism”, ironically shows a hateful, racist attitude by the author (and his attorney). I don’t say this as a rebuttal, but to point out that the author, and his attorney and other columnists, are living in a dark fantasy world, and that their hatred and unrealistic view is destructive personally and for the whole community.

The author is correct when he cites, “openly KKK-type shit on the internet calling for Vick to be lynched, beaten, and ‘neutered’”, however, one should not extrapolate the 1% of extremists as being representative of society as a whole because doing that consistently might become a self fulfilling vision.