ESPN's illustration, not ours. Courtesy The Big Lead.

Anything written about race is bound to spark passionate and turbulent feedback. So when ESPN combined ‘Michael Vick’ and ‘race’ in one story in the latest edition of ESPN: The Magazine, it was already on that controversial path. That story was published online today, and I have no issue with the content of the article. In fact, I don’t think anyone who actually reads the entire piece by Touré can claim that there’s a problem with it.

Sure, the topic has become quite stale, but Touré is, in my opinion, successful in an attempt to strike down the idea that we can hypothetically change one’s race in order to assess how different his or her life would be under those circumstances.

The problem — and a lot of people might not realize this — is that writers rarely create headlines and illustrations and don’t often approve them before stories go to print. And the only problems with this article are the headline and the picture (above). (The latter has already been removed by the website.) Touré has made it clear on his Twitter account that he even requested ESPN.com not use that headline and had no idea that they were going to use a shocking illustration of Vick in white face (or a picture of Megan Fox’s husband dressed as an Eagle).

If Touré were attempting to speculate on Vick’s circumstances as a white man, the title would make sense and there’d be nothing wrong with it. Hell, we’ve done the exact same thing. But the author was trying to do exactly the opposite, and yet a lazy headline was what most of us read. That’s because the majority of people don’t read entire stories. They saw the headline and the ridiculous picture and concluded that this was an ignorant, racist essay.

Clearly, this was a big mistake. How could a tasteless illustration squeeze through the editorial process at ESPN.com? Allowing that picture to go live was a massive error in judgement, but this happens to the best of us in the world of journalism.

It’s just a lot more fun when it’s the self-important Worldwide Leader screwing up, especially when they should have seen it coming.

(Via The Big Lead)

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