Hopeful Footnote on Vick Return

a footnote to NFL Comeback by David J. Leonard

For years I’ve been a big fan of Colorlines and the work of the Applied Research Center – their analysis of structural racism is spot-on and they continually impress and I’m already looking forward to their 2010 convention here in Chicago. I’m also a fan of football and follow via the web, local news, and ESPN not just my hometown teams (Saints and Bears) but the entire league (and a bit of college too). Much to my surprise – the tone and tenor of the commentary on Michael Vick’s return to the NFL has been largely positive from the sports press.

Vick’s mentor Tony Dungy, former coach of the Indianapolis Colts and the first African American coach to win a Superbowl, has made the rounds of media outlets to universally positive reception. I’ve not seen or read a single sports commentary that believes Vick should not have been given a second chance. Plenty of them are skeptical of his success and have been critical of his (limited) on-field performance to date, analysis largely based on his lengthy time away from the game and its impact on his conditioning.

The “NFL Comeback” web exclusive Colorlines story completely leaves the coverage of the sports press out of its analysis and in doing so omits a hopeful footnote. For the millions who – like myself – are preoccupied from August through February with following the game they love the majority of representations of Michael Vick have emphasized his right to a second chance and his right to make a living in his profession.

Sure, some mainstream media characterizations and commentators have said that Vick should not be given a second chance and animals rights activists have demonized him. But a significant portion of mainstream media and nearly all of the sports media have framed the story as a comeback and advanced the idea that he deserves the opportunity. It’s likely that Vick’s talent played a key role in this depiction; were he a less-talented and lower-profile player I doubt that his return would have been reported on as widely or positively.

Regardless, this was a teachable moment and it will be interesting to see if the message from the sports media has impacted the racial breakdown of who believes in Vick’s right to a second chance. I hope it has.

On a less hopeful note, don’t forget about PETA’s anti-Semitic sensationalized campaign “Holocaust on Your Plate”.

And if you’re wondering, I’m a Saints fan first.

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