Michael Vick And The Rush To Judgment

By Tony McClean
Updated: January 24, 2007

EDITORS NOTE: This story concerning Michael Vick first appeared on BASN back on January 25th. Given the recent developments, BASN has chosen to re-run this story to reflect on the past and present incidents.

“Charges have not been filed against Atlanta Falcon quarterback Michael Vick. It shouldn’t matter. Vick hasn’t grown up and there’s no reason to believe he ever will. He’s has had enough time.

— Jeff Schultz, Atlanta Journal Constitution.
“We are an organization that prides itself on not having off-the-field issues. I think we have done a pretty good job of bringing the right people in here so we don’t have to face these types of issues. We don’t like it. We don’t accept it.It is not what we want.”
— Rich McKay, Atlanta Falcons’ GM.
imageNEW HAVEN, Ct. — There are times when some of us media folk are a bit too quick to become judge, jury, and executioner when a story breaks. Even when incidents become plastered in the public before they’re proven by facts, there are still too many of us that as Axel Foley likes to say “Fall for the banana in the tailpipe”.

We live in an age when folks know who the “Runaway Bride” is, but don’t know the name of their child’s teacher. We’re too busy checking out “reality television” while the real reality is happening right before our eyes.
Sadly, a shock jock like Wendi Williams can be considered somewhat more influential in the black community than intellectuals like Dr. Michael Eric Dyson or fellow BASN writer Dr. Boyce Watkins.

The Michael Vick “incident” last week became the latest in another continued series of misinformation and knee jerk reactions that have become all too common within and outside of the sports media business.
It was originally reported last Thursday that Vick reluctantly surrendered a water bottle to security officers at Miami International Airport that smelled like marijuana and contained a substance in a hidden compartment.

The bottle was found to have a compartment that contained “a small amount of dark particulate and a pungent aroma closely associated with marijuana,” a Miami police report said.

The compartment was hidden by the bottle’s label so that it appeared to be a full bottle of water when held upright, police said. He was not arrested and was allowed to board an AirTran flight that landed in Atlanta before noon Wednesday.

Despite the non arrest, it didn’t take long for the media to do a public flogging on Vick.

The above quote from Jeff Schultz of the AJC was just a random sampling of the kind of backlash that appeared in several local and national reports about the incident. Most folks had Vick traded by the end of the weekend.
Needless to say, 2006 wasn’t a stellar year for Vick and the Falcons on and off the field. The team went a disappointing 7-9 and missed the playoffs for a second straight season.

In November, Vick made an obscene gesture toward his hometown fans who heckled the team as it came off the field after a 31-13 loss to New Orleans.

Vick would later apologize, pay a $10,000 team fine and donate another $10,000 to charity. It seems that the airport incident was enough fuel to give some media wags the ammunition to disparage Vick more in print and have him banished from the team.

But this past Monday while we all were still reacting to the conference finals, a unfunny thing happened. The “smoking gun” was found to have neither smoke or be a gun for that matter.

Lab tests on the bottle found no evidence of drugs, according to a memo released by Deisy Rodriguez, an assistant state attorney.

“Based on the lab’s findings, the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office is not filing criminal charges,” Rodriguez said in the memo, adding the bottle is no longer considered evidence in an investigation.

So, were there any public apologies? Any choruses of “oops, my bad” by the media? Of course not. All we got was deafening silence and shrugged shoulders. In many ways, this was just another “he fits the description” incident.

But instead of waiting for the entire event to play out, the media’s knee jerk reaction was to paint Vick as Public Enemy No. 1. Damn his reputation mind you, just look at the final resolution as “Hey, they just made a bad mistake”.

I know some folks will say, “Well, he 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.

We would have hoped that after all the many incidents similar to this that have happened over the years that we in the media would have learned not to jump the gun.

Sadly, it’s just another constant reminder of just how far away from “reality” some of us really are.

As a member of the media, I’m not too of a proud man to say “Mike, we’re sorry. I hope we don’t allow this to happen ever again”.

NOTE: The Associated Press contributed to this story.