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JOURNALISM IN THE AMERICAS Blog

Altered ESPN magazine image of black athlete Michael Vick as white man sparks controversy



ESPN the Magazine is catching a lot of heat for its racially charged photo that digitally altered football player Michael Vick to appear white instead of black. Vick, quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles, made headlines in 2007 when he pled guilty to felony charges of interstate dog fighting. He served 21 months in prison.

Hank Koebler of the Huffington Post said the article was "distastefully bad journalism," and "shamelessly race-baiting for attention's sake."

Author Touré, who wrote "If Michael Vick were white," explained his reasoning behind the article in an opinion piece for CNN, saying he "had no knowledge of or say in the title of the story and the horrific, misguided picture of Vick in whiteface, which dismayed and disgusted me when I saw it."

The photo was taken down for a short while, but then was re-posted, according to Buzz on Broad.

On Friday, Aug. 26, ESPN the Magazine editor Chad Millman released a statement, saying "We had several conversations about how to support the essay with imagery that made people think as much as the words did. Ultimately, the resulting treatment felt like the strongest way to answer the question so many have been asking."

Yahoo Sports' Chris Chase criticized the statement, arguing, "The only thing Millman does is confirm that ESPN The Magazine came to a decision to add an intentionally-provocative headline and a cheap Photoshop image to a column they asked Toure to write. We already knew that. If there's no apology about the picture or defense of the decision to run it, why release a statement at all?"

Sean Gregory of Time, however, said the photo was more "silly than offensive," adding that the author missed the point: "The biggest letdown of this entire package is that it didn't address the real racial insights of Michael Vick's experience, which lie in the polarizing reactions to his crime, punishment, and comeback."

See below an interview from Media Beat with Touré, the article's author.



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