Why Michael Vick—Who Killed Dogs—Should Have Nothing to Say to Colin Kaepernick, Who Stands Up for Black People Being Killed Like Dogs

Colin Kaepernick, Michael Vick and Kijafa Vick in 2013 in Atlanta (Prince Williams/FilmMagic)
Colin Kaepernick, Michael Vick and Kijafa Vick in 2013 in Atlanta (Prince Williams/FilmMagic)

Updated Tuesday, July 18, 2017, 1 p.m. EDT: Colin Kaepernick appears to have responded to Michael Vick’s words with a simple tweet entitled “Stockholm Syndrome.”



I don’t know why Michael Vick would think that he is in any position to tell anybody how to rehab his image, but the convicted dogfighter and gambling-ring operator did just that when he offered quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who is obviously being blackballed, advice on how to get back in good with the white folks over at the NFL. His advice?

Cut off that damn aggressive, black-ass Afro.

OK, he didn’t use those exact words, but he did say that Kaepernick should cut his hair.

“The first thing we got to get Colin to do is cut his hair,” said Vick on FS1’s Speak for Yourself on Monday. “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.”


I understand that this is one black quarterback telling another what he thinks is “presentable,” but there is just so much wrong with this that I don’t even know where to begin.

Vick, who was famously jailed for almost two years in 2007 for his involvement in a dogfighting ring, had cornrows himself in his last year with the Atlanta Falcons before he got shipped off to the pokey for 21 months. When he got out, he cut his hair and had a career with the Eagles and a few other teams for a few years, and ostensibly lived happily ever after. But Mike, let me bullet-point out what is all kinds of wrong with your statement.


First of all, cornrows in 2007, especially for men, were unabashedly black. Wearing them screamed hip-hop, bliggedy blackness and “thug life.” Nowadays, black hairstyles are being worn not just by wypipo on vacation in the Bahamas but by the Kardashians, models on haute couture runways and even white supremacists.

I suppose what Vick is getting at is that cornrows or an Afro on top of not standing for the national anthem is beyond spectacle, beyond play-play, beyond fun. It is political. He’s right in that the NFL just wants to eschew all of that and let the violence stay on the field, but the burden shouldn’t be on Kap.


Second, I am not here for no respectability politics, and nor should any other black person in this country. It is the height of stupidity. Basically, respectability politics is twisting, bending and supplicating yourself (and usually justice, and the well-being of black people) so that you are acceptable in the eyes of white folks. You name your kids “Hunter” and not “Laquan”; you always use proper English in “mixed company”; and you’re never loud, rude or aggressive. Some may call it “playing the game,” but the worst part about this groveling strategy is that ultimately it doesn’t work. Just ask Lawrence Otis Graham.

Finally, since when is killing dogs (a crime) the same as standing up (or kneeling, in this case) for those who remain the “least of these” in a country that obviously has a race problem? Was Kaepernick making shit up about the desperately unfair way black people are treated and hurt by law enforcement?


It’s not as if what he’s doing is not honorable. It just makes wypipo uncomfortable, because he’s calling this country out on its shit (and we got some shit with us) and killing the lie that all is well here. And hey, if blacks are here for anything, it’s to make white folks comfy, amirite?

I say, if Kaepernick wants to let his kinky hair fly, so be it! Nobody asked Troy Polamalu or all those guys with dreadlocks to cut their damn hair. Oh, I get it—it’s to make NFL owners and racist fans feel as if he’s getting in line. It’s fine when black football players are shooting themselves in the leg, making it rain in strip clubs or beating black women down—but social justice, that’s just a little too close to home for the 1 percent owners and the league’s racist fans. It’s time to call a spade a spade.


Love you, Michael, but sometimes you wrong. So sit down, put a muzzle on it and do something right for and by your people. Or your words might come back to bite you in the ass.

Ms. Bronner Helm is the Senior Editorial Director at Colorlines. Mouthy Black Girl. Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Fellow. Shea Butter Feminist. Virgo Sun, Aries Moon.