The former NFL quarterback appeared on Fox Sport 1′s “Speak For Yourself” on Monday where hosts asked him what his advice would be to former San Fransico 49er Colin Kaepernick, who is currently not signed with a team. Vick’s response was full of anti-black respectability politics.
“The first thing we got to get Colin to do is cut his hair,” Vick told the hosts in the video below. “Listen, I’m not up here to try to be politically correct, but even if he puts cornrows in it, I don’t think he should represent himself in that way in terms of just a hairstyle. Just go clean cut. Why not? You’re already dealing with a lot of controversy surrounding this issue. What he needs to do is just try to be presentable.”
— Speak For Yourself (@SFY) July 17, 2017
Vick continued by saying he understands “all of the social media stuff,” referring to Kaepernick’s efforts activism, but said it’s time for the unsigned quarterback to “step up in a different way.”
Co-host Jason Whitlock pointed out the irony in Vick’s viewpoint, noting the “image problem” he had after serving time in jail from 2008-2009 after pleading guilty to running a dogfighting ring. “You were the guy who wore the cornrows, wore the gold chains, played the whole hip-hop image,” he said.
“[I] had an afro at times,” Vick responded. “Even during the tough times, it was something that people would whisper in my ear, ‘this is the way you’re being perceived.’ I understand Colin. He’s a great kid. He’s a great kid. And the reason he’s not playing has nothing to do with the national anthem. I think it’s more solely on his play but yea, everything takes precedent in terms of image, perception. You gotta clean it up, you gotta make sure you do it all right.”
Vick said it was a difficult process for him to clean up, but it was one he “had to accept” in order to be presentable to the public and the judge.
After facing backlash on social media for his anti-black comments, Vick shared a statement on Twitter Tuesday.
“Colin Kaepernick’s hair has nothing to do with him not being on a NFL roster right now. Let’s be clear! I wish only the best for Colin,” he wrote. “I stand by what I’ve said about him being signed at some point this season to help a NFL club. I think he is a great kid who has a bright future and I’m looking forward to seeing him on the field again. Trust and believe what I said was not in malice.”
— Michael Vick (@MichaelVick) July 18, 2017
Kaepernick, who began rocking his afro after initiating his national anthem protest, tweeted the definition of Stockholm syndrome Tuesday morning ― a move that is being read as a response to Vick.
“The Stockholm syndrome appears when an abused victim develops a kind of respect and empathy towards their abuser,” the post read. “This syndrome is also called ‘traumatic bonding’ or ‘victim brainwashing.’”
— Colin Kaepernick (@Kaepernick7) July 18, 2017
By defending the same racist attitudes that he faced during his 2008 trial for dogfighting (and well after he served 23 months in prison for the crime), Vick reinforces the idea that professionalism and respectability is aligned with whiteness. For years after being locked up, Vick had to jump through hoops on his road to redemption ― like black men in this country often do.
As recently as December 2016, while Vick ― fresh haircut and all ― was playing for the Atlanta Falcons, more than 35,000 fans petitioned for him to be excluded from the team’s season finale. While the petition’s page cited his dogfighting conviction as the reason, it’s Vick’s blackness that ultimately made him irredeemable to white America.
Vick’s advice to Kaepernick validates the oppressive mainstream view of whose appearance is acceptable (white peoples’) and whose is not (black peoples’). Respectability politics won’t save us, boo.