Andrew Hamm: the Bipolar Express

Ruminations on theatre, music, and just about anything else that crosses my bipolar brain.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

NAACP Turns a (Color-) Blind Eye to Michael Vick's Guilt

As any idiot could have predicted, the NAACP continues to treat Michael Vick like some kind of traumatized victim even after his admission of guilt and acceptance of responsibility for multiple federal dogfighting and racketeering crimes.

Quoted from an Associated Press report printed on, Atlanta NAACP chapter president R.L. White (a pretty funny last name, considering) said this week: "As a society, we should aid in his rehabilitation and welcome a new Michael Vick back into the community without a permanent loss of his career in football. We further ask the NFL, Falcons, and the sponsors not to permanently ban Mr. Vick from his ability to bring hours of enjoyment to fans all over this country."

From later in the article:

Last month, state and local leaders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People urged the public not to rush to judgment in the Vick case. The civil rights organization said animal rights groups, talk radio and the news media were vilifying the embattled athlete, and that his team and corporate sponsors were prematurely punishing Vick.

White said the Atlanta chapter supports Vick's decision to accept a plea bargain if it's in his best interest, but he questioned the credibility of Vick's co-defendants, saying an admission of guilt might be more about cutting losses than the truth.

"At this point, you're not looking at guilt or innocence," White said, referring to the possible harsher sentence Vick could have received had he taken his case to trial and been found guilty. "You're thinking, 'What I better do is cut my losses and take a plea.' But if he saw this as the best thing to do at this point for his future, then I think he made the correct choice."

White said he regretted that the plea deal will mean all the facts of the case might never be known.

"Some have said things to save their own necks," White said. "Michael Vick has received more negative press than if he had killed a human being."

White said he does not support dogfighting and that he considers it as bad as hunting.

"His crime is, it was a dog," White said.

Okay, Mr. White. Let's look at the facts a little shall we? You do know what facts are, right? Or has your laser-focus on racial animus and invective blinded you to the idea that some things simply are or are not true?

Vick's statement through his lawyer was this: "Mr. Vick has agreed to enter a plea of guilty to those charges and to accept full responsibility for his actions and the mistakes he has made. Michael wishes to apologize again to everyone who has been hurt by this matter."

Did you read that, Mr. White? Is it in the vocabulary of the NAACP to accept full responsibility for actions? Where in that statement can you possibly read anything but an admission of culpability? Where do you read "cutting losses" and "taking a plea?" I've got news for you, Mr. White. You may not be looking at guilt or innocence, but the judicial branch is, the NFL is, the public is, and so is Michael Vick.

Vick hasn't been vilified by talk radio and animal rights groups, he's been vilified by his own choices and his actions. He has been vilified by evidence: testimony, paraphernalia, paper trails, and dozens of canine corpses. He has been vilified because he has been a villain.

Let's play a little game, friends. Take that quote at the top again:

"As a society, we should aid in his rehabilitation and welcome a new Michael Vick back into the community without a permanent loss of his career in football. We further ask the NFL, Falcons, and the sponsors not to permanently ban Mr. Vick from his ability to bring hours of enjoyment to fans all over this country."

Now let's change a couple words and see how it looks.

"As a society, we should aid in his rehabilitation and welcome a new Don Imus back into the community without a permanent loss of his career in football. We further ask MSNBC, Clear Channel, and the sponsors not to permanently ban Mr. Imus from his ability to bring hours of enjoyment to fans all over this country."

Two differences between Don Imus and Michael Vick: Imus didn't break any laws, and he's white. Another difference: Imus has apologized profusely and admitted terrible judgment.

I'm just going to come out and say it: as long as the NAACP continues to function as the National Association of Apologetics for Colored People, knuckleheads like Vick are going to continue to do what they want to do, confident that their status as black Americans qualifies them as a protected special class of society. Someone will have their backs, no matter what they do, as long as they're black enough. Being black is apparently an assumption of innocence even if you admit you're guilty. Just look at Michael Vick, who was obviously forced to admit guilt because of pressure from talk radio and animal activists.

"His crime is, it was a dog?" Seriously??? Mr. White, perhaps you need to be reminded that this is not just about cute little puppy dogs. It's about financing and running an interstate gambling ring, a much more serious crime.

If the NAACP really wants to advance the needs of black Americans, it's time to start insisting that everyone stand up and take personal responsibility for themselves. I'm all for "welcoming Michael Vick back into the community," whatever that means, and I believe he should be permitted to pursue a further career in professional football. But we live in a society of laws, and breaking the law as egregiously as Vick has acknowledged doing results in paying a debt: doing time in jail.

Jason Whitlock, genius as usual, writes, in part:

Michael Vick should not have abandoned his boyz from the hood, the gentlemen who predictably and quickly accepted plea agreements and squealed on Vick. He should’ve demonstrated the courage to demand that they join him on his new journey. He should’ve forced them to abandon him.

You follow?

It appears, according to federal investigators, that Vick financed his friends’ illegal dogfighting activity. Vick may have enjoyed dogfighting, but he certainly didn’t need the “sport.” He didn’t need a home dedicated to breeding and training pit bulls. He didn’t need to open and operate Bad Newz Kennels.

It’s my belief that if Vick stayed involved with dogfighting, he did so primarily because it was a way to stay involved in an activity in which his “boys” still participated. It was Vick’s way of keeping it real. He was fearful of being labeled a sellout, fearful of having his blackness questioned.

This is a burden we’ve created for ourselves. We fight our own evolution. This must end. We need to redefine keeping it real.

For athletes and other people who experience professional success, keeping it real should mean offering your lifelong friends and family members an opportunity to acquire the skills necessary to join the mainstream.

This may sound naïve and a bit comical, but it’s the truth: Rather than financing dogfighting, Vick should’ve paid for educational opportunities. He should’ve tried to help establish his cousins and friends in a legitimate business.

If they were uninterested in that, Vick should’ve informed them that he had nothing but love for ’em. No matter the problem, you can’t help people who are uninterested in helping themselves. You have to develop the courage to stop someone else’s weakness from drowning you. Vick, to me, is a coward. He wasn’t man enough to define for his friends what was in his best interest and what he would and would not tolerate.

Helping a friend or family member wallow in stupidity or self-destructive behavior is not keeping it real. It’s enabling a problem, a problem that could eventually engulf you. Ask Michael Vick.

By defending people who demonstrate bad or even criminal behavior, the NAACP continues to enable a cycle of what Whitlock wisely calls "wallowing in stupid or self-destructive behavior." An organization as powerful as the NAACP should be flexing its muscle to actually improve people. It should not be bending over backwards to justify self-destruction in the name of racial solidarity.

Here's an interesting little tidbit: Last Thursday, Vick was pulled over in Virginia for driving a car will illegally tinted windows. He was further cited for not wearing his seat belt. Seriously, Michael. Laws and rules apply to you. Please, I'm begging you, LEARN SOMETHING.

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  • At 8/24/2007 6:22 PM , Blogger Scott Wichmann said...

    HE. PLEAD. GUILTY!!! Good lord, where is the compassion from these NAACP folks for the dogs? They skim over the barbarity of the actual crime and
    focus instead on 'the media' and the 'court of public opinion'. Why doesn't the NAACP take Stephon Marbury to task for his comments? Is there no accountability? It's not about race, it's about stupidity, and inhumane treatment of animals. Wake up, folks. Whitlock is right, as are you, 'Drew. Peace, Scotto

  • At 8/25/2007 10:07 AM , Blogger Frank Creasy said...

    After reading over Vick's plea agreement, he agreed that, if the case went to trial, that the government would prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he and his friends conspired to create this dogfighting operation; purchased property and built facilities for that purpose; purchased and "tested" and trained the dogs; conspired with similar operations in other states to conduct the illegal dogfights; allowed and encouraged participants in these events to bet on the outcome of the fights; and agreed to kill dogs who did not "test" well in training fights.

    What did Vick NOT do, according to the agreement? He didn't actually kill the dogs himself (just helped decide which ones should die) and he did not bet on the fights. I guess based on those exclusions, the NAACP believes Mike should get a second chance at gridiron glory and fortune, because after all, don't we want our kids to know that we ALL make mistakes, but should be forgiven???

    If there is a God in heaven, Michael Vick will never again get paid to put on pads again. Anywhere. Not in Canada, not in Europe, and NOT in the U.S.A.

  • At 8/25/2007 11:02 AM , Blogger Andrew Hamm said...

    This is a plea agreement, which in the American legal system seldom has deep roots in facts and instead has more basis in aiming for an acceptable sentence.

    The prosecution has two dozen witnesses lined up to testify that Vick personally gambled and personally killed dogs with his own hands. Vick can't admit to these things because the latter makes him a villain in the public eye and the former is a violation of NFL rules resulting in mandatory lifetime expulsion.

    Maybe it's the "Republican father" in me, but I want the Vick example to be "Do this and your life will be ruined," not "Do this and society will forgive you if you can run and throw a ball."

  • At 8/27/2007 12:33 PM , Anonymous Jacquie O. said...

    I cried when I heard the details of how they killed the dogs them deemed unfit. He needs to spend the rest of his life doing something that makes up for his actions. And that would not be in SPORTS. Of course this means he would have to feel remorse. I have a feeling he may not have that ability.

  • At 8/27/2007 1:26 PM , Anonymous Jacquie O. said...

    Hot off the press!

    "Are you entering the plea of guilty to a conspiracy charge because you are in fact guilty?"

    Vick replied, "Yes, sir."

  • At 8/27/2007 3:09 PM , Anonymous Phil Hamm said...

    That line "We need to redefine keeping it real." in the article I thought of this....

  • At 8/28/2007 8:55 AM , Anonymous Phil Hamm said...

    Michael Wilbon in today's Washington Post has some good comments on the subject.

  • At 8/28/2007 1:31 PM , Anonymous Jacquie O. said...

    Great article Phil. Yes, saying I’m sorry is indeed only a first step and it does mean NOTHING if not followed by ACTIONS to correct the pain you have inflicted. We all screw up in life (some big screw ups, some small), but regardless I think we are all capable of forgiveness (forgiving ourselves for our missteps in life as well as asking forgiveness from the ones we have hurt), learning from our mistakes and healing. It’s a humbling experience…but I believe that taking responsibility for your actions is the only way to give you and the people you have hurt true peace. It has to come from action…I’m sorry is just not enough.


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