Last month, former NFL player Michael Vick made an appearance on the podcast Speak For Yourself, hosted by Colin Cowherd and Jason Whitlock, episode: “Michael Vick discusses Ezekiel Elliott, Colin Kaepernick and Lonzo Ball.” Colin Kaepernick is an American football player who, for “ambiguous reasoning,” was not offered a contract to play with an NFL team this season. As the hosts moved to the next subject, Colin Kaepernick, Vick did not hesitate to give his opinion on what he felt was Kaepernick’s reason for being out of a job:
“What we gotta do is get Colin to cut his hair. I don’t think he should represent himself in terms of his hairstyle. Just go clean cut. Why not? You’re already dealing with a lot.”
Whitlock interrupts him and says, “That’s a fascinating thing to hear you say, Mike.” And fascinating, at least to me, it was. Vick continues:
“What he needs to try to do is be presentable. It’s time for Colin to step up in a different way. I think primarily the reason he’s not signed to a team right now is because of the last two seasons and not being as productive as everybody has been seeing him.”
Both Michael Vick and Colin Kaepernick are men of color. Vick is a black man, while Kaepernick is half white and half black. Most people may be familiar with Kaepernick’s controversial “take a knee” during the national anthem before the start of football games. According to Kaepernick, he did it to publically address the issues of unarmed men of color and police brutality. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.” Vick is a recently retired NFL player who, in 2007, pleaded guilty to charges of promoting dog fights and unlawfully torturing and killing dogs, and was sentenced to twenty-three months in prison. He had a short career back in football after being released.
With that being said, I was immediately shocked to hear Michael Vick make that statement on Speak for Yourself. Initially, I thought of him as being a sell out to the very same group of people that he thinks Kaepernick should “cut his hair” for. These are the same people who had no problem taking everything he worked for over charges for dog fighting, while other players who have been accused of beating their wives and girlfriends on multiple occasions still enjoy the luxury of their fancy houses, cars, and playing football in the NFL.
In no way am I implying that Vick should not have been punished for what he did because he should have. Though I am pointing out that committing a crime as a black man in America limits your options. Of all people, I was convinced that Michael Vick would know that. Plus, Colin Kaepernick’s hair has absolutely nothing to do with why he’s out of the job, at least in my opinion. As conservative as the NFL is, his decision to take a knee has more to do with that than his afro. That was the absurdity that ran through my head when Vick suggested Kaepernick to be “presentable.”
Even more so, I’m a member of the natural hair community. I’m all about letting the fro go. If Colin chooses to wear it out, so be it.
After hearing him say that, I was so ready to cancel Michael Vick. I was considering unfollowing him on social media and going on a slight rant on my own platforms about what he said.
However, after watching a video made by one of my favorite Youtubers, lovelyti2002, I couldn’t help but notice the comment section. I looked at a number of hateful comments coming from all kinds of people and thought, “What kind of people sit here and attack someone just because they disagree?”
I know who: people like me.
One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned over the course of my college career is that although people may share the same characteristics as you (race, religion, gender, etc.), that doesn’t mean that they see the world in the same light. Each person is different and has had their own unique experiences that shape and define who they are and how they think and act. I’ve noticed that a lot of times, especially when dealing with issues of race, I lean towards the idea that nearly every black person is on the same thought path as me. An ignorant thought, but it’s what I often believed. The experiences I’ve had, growing up in a predominately African American neighborhood and school system, shaped my thinking of others around me.
Therefore, when Vick suggested Kaepernick’s hairstyle is a reason for him being a free agent, I had a legitimate reason to be taken back. Vick was someone that I had sincere admiration and respect for. But after having some time to think about it, I came to the realization of three important things about disagreeing with someone you respect:
Don’t take disagreements personally. A lot of the things we disagree about may be things we have held long term beliefs about or things that are truly personal to us. It may even be a disagreement about something as small as which route to a destination is the fastest. The point is, whether the issue is personal or not, don’t feel attacked when someone else doesn’t agree with you. That’s probably the biggest mistake I made in this situation. But unfortunately, it’s often hard to do this most times because there are lots of people that are not taught to disagree with others in the right way.
That brings me to my next point: there is a respectful way to disagree with people. How is someone not supposed to be offended when the other person attacks your character or values? Attacking someone in the midst of a disagreement can cause things to go left very quickly. Misunderstandings, strained relationships, physical altercations, and other negative consequences can arise from not handling disagreements in the proper manner. There are plenty of resources that can help you better approach a disagreement the next time it comes up.
And that brings me to my last point. It seems that when people disagree, they are trying to convince the other person that they’re more right. This should never be the case. We are all different with different opinions, and it’s important to hear them. Essentially, it’s important to disagree. Everyone is capable of thinking for themselves, and everyone should respect that.
I still have much respect for both Michael Vick and Colin Kaepernick. Additionally, I now better understand that I can have this respect even though he doesn’t see eye-to-eye with me. What he said doesn’t make him a bad person, the enemy, or a sell out. It just makes him different from me in more ways than I thought. And I can live with that.