I respect James for his measured take on the Michael Vick case, but damning evidence continues to mount against the Falcons QB. James cites an ESPN article on the history of race relations in Atlanta -- and how the city's past factors into whether you think Vick innocent or guilty -- but the article badly misses the point.
Michael Vick is a symbol of how things have changed for the better. Atlanta has been very good to him. Sure, there were critics, but he deserved to be criticized. Vick's play was uneven at best, and his performance off the field was likewise checkered. Racists didn't imagine Ron Mexico, and there was no conspiracy to plant weed in a water bottle at a Miami airport (more likely, his enablers -- most of them white -- called in a few favors and secured a dismissal of charges).
Throughout, he maintained a fervent fan base and a slew of endorsements. No one was out to get Michael Vick. And for the writer of the ESPN article to even mention "lynching" in the same breath as Vick is irresponsible at worst, sloppy journalism at best.
Certainly racism is alive, here and elsewhere. But pampered African-American athletes everywhere have it much better than your average white guy. Sorry, but no one's giving me free luxury cars to drive, nor interceding on my behalf with the police. Those are advantages. Period. Focusing on the self-inflicted plight of the Pacman Jones' of the world, at the expense of real victims, does a disservice to any civil rights movement.
I defer, once again, to Cynthia Tucker:
A black woman is secretary of state. A black man is a prominent contender for the Democratic nomination for president. Black Americans are CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, presidents of elite colleges and partners at prestigious law firms. Oprah Winfrey is arguably the most influential woman on the planet. And Vick, for his part, has earned more money than most people on the planet and can certainly take care of himself. Among his dream team of attorneys is Billy Martin, who is one of the nation's best-known criminal defense lawyers and who also happens to be black.
Let's not make Michael Vick a martyr simply because people deduce -- based on a preponderance of evidence -- his guilt. That's what happens when you're famous; everyone has an opinion about you, however irrelevant. A jury will decide what matters. They may decide correctly. O.J. Simpson was found innocent, but only the delusional would argue that verdict was correct. I'm not as certain regarding Vick -- in fact, I hope I'm wrong. I don't want Joey Harrington quarterbacking the Falcons. And I don't want another African-American hero to fall by the wayside.
But none of us should look the other way, blinded by tired excuses and white liberal guilt. A scoundrel is a scoundrel, and so far that's the best thing you can say about Michael Vick.