What if Michael Vick Were White

What if Michael Vick Were White

Updated Apr 25, 2014 at 03:13PM EDT by Brad.

Added Aug 26, 2011 at 06:40PM EDT by Don.

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What if Michael Vick Were White is an exploitable photoshop meme in which American football quarterback Michael Vick is transformed into various people, animals and objects.


An ESPN article titled “What if Michael Vick were white?”[1] featuring a photoshopped image of Vick with white skin was published on August 25th, 2011. The article written by American essayist Touré criticized the hypothetical argument that Vick might have been punished less severely for his 2007 conviction of unlawful dogfighting if he were of Caucasian descent.


The same day the ESPN article was published, Business Insider[2] and The Daily What[3] reported on how the headline and image were not approved by Touré, citing tweets by the author.

Here’s my ESPN mag essay about Michael Vick & race. http://t.co/u3DRkAc I asked them not to call it What If Vick Were White but they did.less than a minute ago via Twitter for BlackBerry® Favorite Retweet Reply

I had no idea they’d put a pic of Vick in whiteface. Makes no sense w an essay saying it’s impossible to re-imagine him as white?less than a minute ago via Twitter for BlackBerry® Favorite Retweet Reply

The first parody was tweeted by @JoeSportsFan[6] the same day, showing Michael Vick transformed into a bald eagle. An image of Michael Vick as barbeque spare ribs was subsequently posted to Reddit, and reached the front page with 1,854 up votes. By August 26th, enough derivatives had been created that Total Pro Sports[4] and CBS News[5] were able to post Michael Vick photoshop round-ups.

Editor’s Response

On August 26th, 2011, ESPN Senior Editor Raina Kelley appeared on CNN claiming that the image was used to address the racial issue directly.

ESPN Editor In Chief Chad Millman published a post the same day addressing the issue, with an embed of the CNN clip:

In the past, designers have challenged readers to consider their views on race by portraying a black Queen Elizabeth II and Pope John Paul II.

We had several conversations about how to support the essay with imagery that made people think as much as the words did.

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