Hip-Hop Hype Hurts, Just Ask Michael Vick
by Kevin Martin (bio)
Hip-hop culture has claimed a high-profile victim: Michael Vick.
I refuse to have an ounce of sympathy for Michael Vick, who is reaching a plea agreement with federal prosecutors for his role in arranging dog fights on his Virginia property and allegedly killing several of the dogs himself when they did not live up to expectations.
It is mind-boggling to imagine what was going through Vick's mind when he first decided engage in dogfighting. This admired black NFL quarterback was pretty much set for life with the Atlanta Falcons - making millions of dollars a year on the field and off with his many retail endorsements.
Vick apparently could not break with the hip-hop lifestyle he embraced, and now he will more than likely end up in financial ruin, suspended or even banned from the NFL for life and going to jail because of what may have been his insane need to have street cred among hip-hoppers.
Dogfighting is a major component of hip-hop culture. It can be seen in videos and lyrics of hip-hop giants such as Jay-Z and DMX (who is now facing questions about poorly-treated dogs found at his Arizona home). According to an article recently posted on MTV's web site, "hip-hop is one of the only outlets in American where you'll find references to [dogfighting]."
I see many young black men dragged through the streets of Washington DC by their angry-looking pit bulls. I suspect those dogs, from the looks of them, are the victims of repeated beatings and maybe even fed gunpowder to make them even more vicious. I expect they are being conditioned to fight.
These animals become so dangerous that, when they are abandoned for being either too old or no longer wanted, local animal control officials often euthanize them quickly because they are unable to control them.
There are those who will defend Vick or demonize his prosecutors for his already-admitted indiscretions. NBA star Stephon Marbury called dogfighting a sport and compared it to deer hunting - an activity that is highly-regulated by the government and not a vehicle for organized gambling. The Southern Christian Leadership Conference - the group founded by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. - came dangerously close to turning its 50th anniversary celebration into a pro-Vick rally. Even the NAACP got dragged into it when Atlanta chapter president R.L. White said the NFL should show Vick mercy no matter what Vick's plea and punishment are.
I expect charges of racism will soon follow.
How many more Michael Vicks, Mike Tysons and Adam "Pacman" Joneses will it take before the black community wakes up and demands these athletes and others who embrace the hip-hop culture take personal accountability for their own actions? Vick and the others are suffering because of their own actions. Racism has nothing to do with it at all.
League commissioners, owners and fans, to their credit, seem no longer to be willing to play along with these bad-boy attitudes. People are not going to pay good money to see R-rated sporting events. The NBA found this out the hard way several years ago when people started calling it "thugball" and fan attendance started dropping off after players began physically assaulting fans and coaches.
In the end, I expect Vick will have learned a very valuable lesson - that his boys were not going to take the fall for him as they all turned state's evidence against him, forcing him to cut a deal. I guess the no-snitch rule among hip-hoppers went out the window. There truly is no honor among thieves.
It is here that we see the downside of the hip-hop culture. The ruined lives. Incarceration. It's not glamorous.
Vick's future now seems to include a fitting for a pumpkin-colored suit, soap on a rope and learning to sleep on his back. The only football he will be throwing around will likely be in the prison yard because, at the end of the day, he was just plain stuck on stupid and lost it all because he craved an image.
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Kevin Martin is a member of the National Advisory Council the Project 21 black leadership network. Comments may be sent to Project21@nationalcenter.org.
Published by The National Center for Public Policy Research. Reprints
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