ESPN is being criticized for photoshopping an image of professional football quaterback Michael Vick to make him a white man. The image accompanied ESPN the Magazine‘s story “What if Michael Vick were white?”
TIME magazine collected responses to the magazine’s photoshop. According to TIME, it has been labeled “trash,” “disgraceful” and “with racial undertones.” Gawker-owned blog Deadspin commented that it is “dumbfounded” by the photoshop.
Bleacher Report noted “The essay, penned by Touré, is quite good. It’s thoughtful, provocative, and certainly well-written. But thanks to the accompanying photo, internet-goers were a little too outraged to talk about the essay itself.”
Interestingly, Touré’s article dismisses the question of “What if Vick Were White” in the fourth paragraph. He calls that question “so facile, naive, shortsighted and flawed that it is meaningless.” He also rejected the “‘switch the subject’s race to determine if its racism’ test.”
Toure took to Twitter to criticize the photoshop and headline and distance himself from both. He tweeted that he “asked them not to call it What if Vick Were White but they did.” He added that he didn’t “have a voice” in the headline or artwork, and commented that his story “is nowhere near as inflammatory as the pic of him in whiteface.”
Despite the criticism, ESPN is standing by the photo and headline. In a confusing move, ESPN did take down the photo of white Michael Vick and posted in its place a picture of the real Michael Vick. But, about an hour later, ESPN took down the real Michael Vick photo to be replaced by the white Michael Vick image. Currently, the white Michael Vick image is in place.
ESPN the Magazine editor Chad Millman explained the photo switching to the Big Lead:
“We initially removed the Vick photo-illustration due to a licensing issue which has since been resolved. We firmly stand by our representation of the story and the photo-illustration, which has since been re-posted and appreciate and encourage the discussion it has prompted.”
ESPN also published an Aug 26 statement from Millman on the photoshop. In part, Millman stated:
“We had several conversations 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.”
iMediaEthics is writing to ESPN the Magazine for further comment and will update with any response.
UPDATE: 08/30/2011 8:37 AM EST: Carrie Kreiswirth from ESPN told iMediaEthics via e-mail that ESPN has no further comment.