me be clear from the outset: I believe in redemption. I believe
that most human beings have the capacity to rise above errors and
crimes that they have committed and find a new path. As such, I
believe that now Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick has
paid for his crime of engaging in the sick sport of dog-fighting
and should be allowed the opportunity to play football and live
outside of a cloud.
said, I must confess that I am fit to be tied by the amount of attention
that Vick’s case has received both within the mainstream media as
well as within Black America. More to the point, the level of concern
for Vick demonstrated by many African Americans seems WAY out of
proportion to his significance and to antipathy showed toward him
by many sports fans.
recent statements and actions by some NAACP leaders is what really
sent me over the top. Of all the things to speak out on and/or
hold a demonstration around, to choose Michael Vick seems like someone
got their priorities out of order. We are in the midst of an economic
crisis unlike anything we have experienced since the 1970s and the
1930s. There are unjust wars being conducted by the US in Iraq
and Afghanistan. There is an intense battle for healthcare reform
underway and a needed battle around environmental destruction, and
yet we spend all of this time on whether Michael Vick should play
the answer to this question is “yes,” then, Black American sports
fans, let’s shift our sites to another matter in sports, a matter
around which there has been a continuing injustice, and one to which
few African Americans have spoken: the name of the Washington professional
football team [the Washington Redskins, for
those of you who do not follow football]. Yes, sisters and brothers,
if we are truly concerned with injustices in the wide world of sports,
we are missing the boat with a focus on Michael Vick. How about
the fact that the owners of the Washington Redskins continue to
refuse to change the name of their team despite the fact that Native
Americans and their allies have regularly and loudly noted that
the name “redskin” is an insult to Native Americans on par with
words such as the “N” word?
we are truly interested in injustices in sports, why is it that
so many African Americans remain completely and totally silent about
this controversy? Worse, we enthusiastically embrace the Washington
Redskins, their name, their logo, etc., without the slightest bit
of guilt or remorse.
this light I believe that the outpouring of concern for Michael
Vick is just short of pathetic. Sure, give the brother another
chance to play. But is that really on par with having the name
and logo of a national football team that every day reminds Native
Americans that they do not count? What does it say about us—African
Americans—that we are prepared to be complicit in such a display?
the Philadelphia NAACP and other NAACP chapters are concerned about
the future of Michael Vick, so be it. If they believe that in light
of everything facing Black America that this issue must be brought
to the surface, God bless them. But if they do not wish to fall
prey to hypocrisy then I would suggest that their concerns and those
of other African Americans who worry about Michael Vick be expanded
to a much deeper examination of race in sports. Let’s look at the
names of teams that denigrate Native Americans. Let’s look at the
declining number of native born African Americans in Major League
baseball. Let’s look at the anemic numbers of people of color in
executive positions in sports teams across the board.
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Bill Fletcher, Jr.
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