Michael Vick is Finally Free

By Dr. Boyce Watkins, BASN Contributor
Updated: July 21, 2009

NEW YORK (BASN) — Michael Vick is finally out of prison.

He is not just being transferred from one prison to another, but actually free. I am happy for Michael, but I worry. I never agreed with the way the world treated Michael Vick, and I stated this fact everywhere people would listen.

At the same time, I never thought that Michael Vick was innocent, and I actually thought he was a knuckle-head. The truth, however, is that treating him like a mass murderer over his youthful indiscretion was simply uncalled for.

Vick’s treatment by the media is nothing new: Every year, there is at least one black male athlete chosen as public enemy number one. This person is villified as if they’d stabbed the pope and shot a newborn baby.

Before Vick, there was Randy Moss, Ron Artest, Latrell Sprewell, Barry Bonds, O.J. Simpson, Muhammad Ali, Jack Johnson and others. The funny thing about it is that white athletes also commit crimes, but we are somehow convinced that most of the perpetrators of bad behavior are African American.

What you see through the camera lens is largely a function of where the camera is pointed, since the media can only report about .1% of everything that happens at any given time.

The camera is usually aimed away from black athletes doing good things, like Myron Rolle, the former Florida State Seminol who passed up on the NFL draft to study at Oxford. Instead, it tends to be pointed toward athletes who do things that embarrass their families.

Simultaneously, the 2006 exposure of the drunken chaos at places like Duke University reveals that athletes of all ethnicities get themselves into ridiculous situations.

People should understand a few important issues as they relate to Michael Vick.

1) His trial might be over, but his trials are not.

Vick has gotten out of prison, but he is not out of the system. Any brother who has been incarcerated or arrested knows full well that managing your newfound freedom can be difficult. The justice system, as it stands, is not designed to rehabilitate or reduce recidivism. It appears to be designed to exterminate black men and keep them out of society. Vick should be as disciplined as a church mouse as he focuses on getting his life back together. Running out to the club every night, smoking weed or “kicking it” too hard will have him kicking around an ankle bracelet for the rest of his life.

2) Vick has paid his debt to society, but he now owes a debt to his bill collectors.

Court documents cite that Vick owes between $10 million and $50 million dollars. Apparently, he owes so much money that his attorneys can’t even come up with an accurate number. That’s just a little bit crazy.

3) Think you’ll be seeing Vick playing on Sundays anytime soon? Not so fast.

My guess is that NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell, is not going to allow Michael Vick to return to the NFL this season. Goodell has stated that Vick must show that he is “truly remorseful” before he will consider allowing him back into the league. Perhaps if Vick breaks down and apologizes like a little kid (remember the pathetic apology by Terrell Owens a couple of years ago? Even I was embarrassed after that one), Goodell might consider allowing a sufficiently emasculated black man back into the league. Michael could cut to the chase and simply change his name to “Toby.” Vick probably won’t be doing any Nike commercials either. All this can be added to the pressure that the extreme animal rights group, PETA, is going to put on the NFL. I’ve been sympathetic to PETA causes in the past, but I think they went overboard in trying to exploit Michael Vick’s celebrity status to promote their own agenda.

4) Vick should take a note from TI.

The rapper TI is a complicated man, similar to his predecessor, Tupac Shakur. He can be “ignant” in one verse and visionary in another. One thing that Vick can learn from his ATL homeboy is how to run a good, remorseful PR campaign: Public service announcements, speaking to kids, and doing all you can to show that you are truly trying to do something positive in the world. Perhaps if Vick meets with the Humane Society and puts them on his side, he can actually get past the more radical folks over at PETA.

5) Remember that the NFL is a business.

Individuals evaluating Michael Vick are not simply focused on how far Vick can throw a football; they are also focused on how many fans will fill the stands. Vick has one advantage in that many hardcore football fans are actually beer drinking carnivores who couldn’t care less about PETA.

On the other hand, the team owner has to worry about the PR problems of having protesters distracting the fans as they try to enter the stadium. The decision to sign Michael Vick is a complicated one, and if he were any less talented, the answer would probably be “no”.

The bottom line is this: Michael Vick needs to change his life dramatically. He has a valuable brand name that can be used to make money in certain elements of our society. He is a talented athlete, but he must also realize that changing the folks around him is absolutely essential to getting his career back on track.

Secondly, he should learn how to make money and get opportunities that are off the football field. Magic Johnson is a good example of an athlete who learned to make a lot of money in urban America by utilizing his brand name. Magic is now a “baller” without actually holding a ball.

Michael should become more than just an athlete; he should become a true businessman.