Touré Distances Himself from ESPN’s Michael Vick ‘Whiteface’ Saga

Cultural critic Touru00e9 says that ESPN The Magazine's decision to run a photoshopped image of Vick as a white man distracts viewers from his original point of how race played a role in his high-profile dog-fighting scandal.

By Jorge Rivas Aug 31, 2011

Michael Vick has been in the news again. This week he again became one of the highest paid players in the NFL when he signed a six-year contract with the Philadelphia Eagles worth $100 million. In an unprecedented move, Nike also re-endorsed Vick, something that the company has rarely done with athletes who’ve fallen so quickly out of favor with the public.

His name has also been in a news for a controversy he didn’t start. 

ESPN asked cultural critic Touré to write a story for the September edition of ESPN The Magazine. In it, Toure raised some legitimate questions about the complexities of race in the United States, but quickly shut down the notion that it’s not as simple as a hypothetical question.

Touré for ESPN:

I mean, who would this white Vick be? […] When you alter his race, it’s like those Back to the Future movies where someone goes back in time, inadvertently changes one small thing about his parents’ dating history and then the person starts to disappear. If Vick had been born to white parents, you wouldn’t even be reading this right now. That Vick would have had radically different options in life compared with the Vick who grew up in the projects of Newport News, Va., where many young black men see sports as the only way out.


Still, ESPN editors titled the story "What if Michael Vick Were White?" and illustrated the story with an photoshopped picture of a white Michael Vick.

Touré went on to Twitter to express his dismay shortly after he learned of ESPN’s actions.

My essay on Vick is nowhere near as inflammatory as the pic of him in whiteface which contradicts me saying you can’t imagine him as white.

I wrote an essay about Vick & race. ESPN the mag titled it & added art without me (normal procedure). Judge me on the story not the art.

Touré was on CNN shortly after the story was published online and said the illustration was a "horrific, misguided picture of Vick in whiteface, which dismayed and disgusted me when I saw it."

ESPN’s Editor in Chief Chad Millman stands by its decision to run the picture. In a statement he said several conversations were had 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," Millman said in a statement.