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Vick, Kaepernick: The Battle Between Cultural Expression, Mainstream Acceptance

It never fails. Whenever there’s a Black public figure in the news for speaking against the status quo, there will inevitably come a time in which a similar public figure will be wheeled out to speak on it. Though this scenario has taken place in just about every medium of communication in which there are a significant number of Black folks, the National Football is the paradigm in which the current dialectic takes place.  

We all are well aware of the current situation in which QB Colin Kaepernick finds himself; an unapologetic activist who truly wants to continue an NFL career that has been above average to say the least. Most NFL players don’t even make it to a conference championship game, let alone a Super Bowl. But Kaep did just that.  

Despite his age, arm strength and athleticism, the mainstream message, and excuses, being pumped out by the NFL and its backers as to why Kaep remains unemployed range from NFL defenses having figured him out to him being lazy, and not his highly publicized action of protest on the sidelines throughout last season.  

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Enter Michael Vick, who has a few things in common with Kaepernick. Both were considered running quarterbacks with incredible arm strength, and both were highly criticized before their non-football related issues took center stage.  

Their respective actions made them easier targets for their detractors, many of whom were already at least somewhat averse to the idea of a quarterback with lightning feet not named Steve Young, while others secretly don’t like the idea of Black quarterbacks at all, running or throwing. 

Vick paid his debt to society, came back to finish off his stunted NFL career and is now considered a model ambassador for the game of football and individuals who’ve had missteps in life, only to come back stronger and better men because of them.  

Yesterday while watching FS1, something I rarely do, I happened upon an interview with the network’s bloated talking head and resident negro authority on negro behavior, a la Stephen from Django, Jason Whitlock. He was interviewing Vick. I suspected that a curveball would inevitably be metaphorically tossed at Mike’s head, based on the sheer amount of adulation that Whitlock was showering upon him. 

For the uninitiated, Whitlock is usually at odds with many in the Black community due to his controversial stances, like the time he ridiculed LeBron James when the NBA star spoke about racism and how tough it is being Black in America, no matter how much money you have.  

So, when I saw him buttering up the former Pro Bowl quarterback, I could sense the inevitable other shoe plummeting from the nether reaches of space, it’s shadow growing larger and larger prior to its imminent impact. Then, it happened. Whitlock asked what its like for someone labeled as toxic to find a team in the NFL.

Speak For Yourself on Twitter

First thing we got to get Colin to do is cut his hair.” – @MikeVick advises Kaepernick on rebuilding his image https://t.co/YENvUPOIgP

“First thing we’ve got to get Colin to do is cut his hair,” Vick said. “Listen, I’m not up here to try to be politically correct. Even if he puts cornrows in there, I don’t think he should represent himself in that way in terms of just the hairstyle. Just go clean-cut. You know, why not? You’re already dealing with a lot of controversy surrounding this issue. The most important thing that he needs to do is just try to be presentable.”

Yeah, that doesn’t read very well, does it? There are many on my various social media timeline going at Vick’s throat for his comments and all I can do is shake my head. 

BlackSportsOnline on Twitter

Michael Vick wants him to lie. Wants him to play a role for white acceptance for a job. Cut your hair. Play nice. Fake it for them.

I’m not going to sit up here and call Vick names because I really believe he MEANT well, but whenever a media outlet or prominent journalist has a particularly heavy ax to grind, they’ll eventually go out and get help carrying it. In this particular instance, Vick is that help because Whitlock has been the prominent detractor of Colin’s protest action since last season and still remains one of his biggest critics.  

It’s not like no one is above reproach from media scrutiny, but even one who is unfamiliar with the nuances of objectivity in mainstream media can see the cumbersome ax Whitlock is carrying from the other side of the country.

From Michael Vicks’ perspective, it’s easy to see where he was coming from. Here is a guy that was at the pinnacle of his career as one of the most dangerous threats to ever step under center in NFL history. The dogfighting scandal put all that on pause in a major way.  It was his genuinely contrite and apologetic demeanor, as well as his on-field abilities, that were responsible for his return. In Kaep’s situation, contrition and humility may not be enough.  

The NFL has basically told us that you can commit almost any crime  in the book and you’ll still have a chance to play.  Yet, if you exercise your Constitutional rights and bring attention to the plight of your people via the only medium you can, then it is an unforgivable offense. 

Hogwash and racism are one in the same in this scenario. Vick’s redemption came not only at the behest of the venerable Tony Dungy, but a major cosign from former Philadelphia Eagles and current Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid as well. 

But, despite support from just about every NFL coach he has ever played for and more, nobody has been brave or bold enough to step forward and actually invite Kaepernick to camp.  Also, unlike Vick, Kaep doesn’t really have anything to be apologetic for.  He was moved by his conscience, he acted upon it and has gone on record to say he would no longer express his opposition to oppression and white supremacy in that manner anymore. What else is there to say?   

At this point, Vick’s overture toward Kaepernick amounts to little more than respectability politics.  As we all know, a black man can be adorned in the finest linen draws, dipped in exotic fragrances, a razor sharp ceaser/fade with the most laser-precise, geometrically sound hairline ever conceived by a Dominican barber and be as articulate as CP3O, but he’s still a Black man. 

When it comes to Black folks, many lazily like to pose that our shortcomings have a large deal to do with material appearances rather than a historically demonstrated disdain for people of color displayed by America’s mainstream culture. Corporations are more than willing to co-opt Black culture, from our musical expression, sense of style to the way we bend the vernacular to make it our own. 

But if a Black man wants to be embraced in the corporate realm and hold onto that good job, we have to be marginalized to be accepted. So the very elemental truth in what Vick was trying to say is that, sadly, for the most part, we have to sacrifice who we are because that’s how the game is played.

Though I had hoped he would try to take the high road, Kaep responded with the following post after Vick published a statement clarifying his statement. 

Colin Kaepernick on Twitter

Colin Kaepernick on Twitter

https://t.co/eujDBHBWhh

The post refers to a psychological disorder known as Stockholm Disorder. While there are a ton of people who believe it was a jab at Vick, the more that I think about it, Whitlock fits the description far more.

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