NAACP, PETA debate Vick case
Aug. 23: MSNBC’s Amy Robach talks to interim NAACP President Dennis Courtland Hayes and PETA President Ingrid Newkirk about the Michael Vick dogfighting case.
The case against Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick has exposed a split within both the NAACP and the larger African-American community, as some activists condemn Vick’s role in the deaths of fighting dogs and others cast him as a victim of a racist justice system.
Vick, 27, is expected to plead guilty Monday to federal charges in connection with a dogfighting operation on his property in Surry County, Va. He could face up to five years in prison. Two associates of Vick’s who have pleaded guilty to conspiracy said Vick helped executed at least eight underperforming dogs.
A spokesman for Vick told NBC News on Thursday that Vick, who is black, was grateful to the Atlanta chapter of the NAACP for a statement of support issued by its president, the Rev. R.L. White. White said Wednesday that Vick should not be barred from playing professional football once he completes his prison sentence.
“It is regrettable to us that Michael Vick had to settle for a plea bargain,” White said. “All of us, the fans of Mr. Vick, had hoped for a more favorable outcome.”
White acknowledged that he had previously used the word “lynching” to describe public reaction to the prosecution of Vick, but he said he “honored” Vick’s decision to seek a plea agreement as the “most beneficial course.” He denied that he was “playing the race card,” saying he simply wanted to make sure Vick was “treated fairly by the public and by the court system.”
National NAACP withholds judgment
NBC’s Kevin Corke reported that White’s comments created a rift within the NAACP, whose national office has taken no position on Vick’s potential reinstatement to the National Football League.
Vick “certainly was in control of his actions at all times and should be held accountable for what he did,” Dennis Courtland Hayes, interim president of the national NAACP, said Thursday in an interview with MSNBC’s Amy Robach.
Hayes rejected the contention that dogfighting was an acceptable part of urban black culture, as celebrated in rap and hip-hop videos like “Grand Champ” by DMX or “99 Problems” by Jay-Z.
“I thinks that’s a product of stereotypical thinking,” Hayes said.
“I’m from the black community. I live in the ’hood when I visit my mother in Indiana. I travel the streets of African-American communities in Baltimore, and this is all news to me,” he said. “I think people should hesitate to conclude that it’s something cultural with the African-American community. It exists everywhere.”
Racial element arose from beginning
Discussion of whether Vick was being singled out for special attention because he was a famous black man erupted almost from the moment the allegations against him arose in April, and much public reaction appeared to split along racial lines.
When several hundred people turned out last month for a rally supporting Vick in Atlanta, only about 50 were white, said Gerald Rose, executive director of the New Order National Human Rights Organization, based in the city. Rose said the overwhelmingly black turnout reflected anger among African-Americans that black men who stumbled came under disproportional public judgment.
Alton H. Maddox, a New York civil rights activist who was disbarred for his role in the Tawana Brawley case, argued that Vick was being targeted because “he is not an assimilationist.”
“No one can mistake Vick for Tiger Woods,” Maddox wrote in an editorial in the New York Amsterdam News, a black newspaper. “In sports, they are both performing a ‘white man’s job.’ Vick, however, is doing it on the Black side. This is like a Black man rubbing salt in the white man’s wound.”
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