Advice to Michael Vick: Handle Your Business

By Dr. Boyce Watkins
Updated: July 20, 2007

Michael Vick NEW HAVEN — I was on the radio talking about Michael Vick yesterday. But then again, I am on the radio talking about some social issue with black athletes every other day. I find the black athlete experience fascinating, as these men become walking corporate brands, consistently exposed to factors that corporations are completely incapable of understanding.

They can’t tell the difference between a Warren Sapp vs. a Lawrence Phillips, or a Gary Sheffield vs. a Doc Gooden. Such inability to understand the experience of the black male in America causes them to lose billions as they consistently guess wrong and miss out on valuable opportunities.

There is also a level of complex analysis that must be done by the athlete/corporate brand himself to figure out how to manage living in two separate worlds. Most “brothers” understand what I am saying.

You have the friend you can’t get in the car with because you don’t know what’s in the trunk or whether a bullet is going to be flying through the windshield that day.

You have that relative who borrows a little too much money and stays at your house long after his welcome is over.

You might have “messed with” that girl with the crazy ex-boyfriend who just got out of jail, pissed off because you are satisfying his woman better than he could. O.K., I should stop putting my business out in the street, but you get the point.

You’re tempted to deal with the mess, out of loyalty. The urge to “keep it real” is very real, as we have been bombarded with corporate types telling us to completely abandon our friends and communities.

“Never” you say to yourself each morning, as you blast Jay-Z in your stereo on the way to work.

No self-respecting black man wants to be a castrated corporate monkey.

Michael Vick, however, may need a moment of clarity. When you are a franchise player, earning far more money than anyone is worth, there’s a time when you have to realize that you’re not in college anymore, you’re not a kid, and you’re damn sure not in the hood.

You can’t wear a white suit and still swim in mud puddles. Stray bullets, ex-baby daddies, or jealous haterologists can put you in situations you should probably avoid.

It doesn’t mean you lose touch, you just create a different touch, one that is more consistent with the realities of your situation.

So, as an “OG” (I’m now 36 years old, which makes me a senior citizen in football terms), my advice to Vick is “handle your business”.As a walking icon for the Falcons, you are a franchise player and a multi million dollar brand. Don’t get “caught up” with people doing things they shouldn’t be doing.

This dog fighting scandal can cause you to lose everything you’ve worked for in all those hot two-a-day practices. It can nullify every great run, leap, pass and touchdown.

It can make your mama cry at the end of the day, your kids embarrassed to see you on TV, and put you at risk of becoming the next Mike Tyson or Darryl Strawberry.

All I can say is “handle your business”, and I’m not just talking about money.