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In Wilbon's World

Pryor in Eye of Storm

The folks in the Buckeye State like it when Terrelle Pryor is throwing or running for touchdowns, when he's playing quarterback for them. But if he feels something they don't feel, if he keeps his own opinions and not theirs, specifically on the subject of Michael Vick, they don't like the 20-year-old college sophomore so much. Some of them dislike Pryor intensely because he likes Vick and had the nerve to say so publicly by putting "Vick" on an eye-black strip during Saturday's game. You can read the columns, the Buckeye message boards and see how many think he's dumb, or stupid, or a disgrace to his team and his school.

This is the world we live in, where it's not enough to have your own feelings; you have to pound everybody else until they believe exactly what you do. It's too bad Pryor isn't eloquent enough to express himself any better than he did following Saturday's game, when he said in defense of supporting Vick, "Not everybody is the perfect person in the world. Everyone does ... kills people, murders people, steals from you, steals from me. I just feel that people need to give him a chance."

It's an almost incoherent defense, really, the suggestion that "everybody murders or steals." Then again, we're talking about a college sophomore who, not surprisingly, plays football better than he speaks. I deal with enough college students, not all of them athletes, who increasingly are numbingly inarticulate, which isn't the same thing as being stupid. While Pryor ought to be able to express himself with a little more clarity, he also ought to be able to like or dislike pretty much whomever he wants without having outrage directed his way.

When Pryor walks onto a football field or into a college classroom, where disagreement was encouraged once upon a time, and declares how much he likes Vick, groupthink (or more precisely, nothink) kicks in. Fans have taken the partisan politics of Washington to other areas and overrun the internet with pitchforks. Heaven forbid a player or coach expresses an opinion or anything that anyone anywhere disagrees with. If Pryor weren't so talented, well, they might even call for him to be benched this week against Southern California.

What Pryor said that isn't offensive, to me anyway, is "I always looked up to Mike Vick and I always will because I still think he is one of the best quarterbacks." People want to pass a law now making it illegal to say anything that isn't hateful about Michael Vick? Last I checked, he served nearly two years in prison for his crimes. Move on.

The level of intolerance that people so boldly express now is stunning and even worse, quietly accepted. Same thing was evident in Kentucky where John Calipari sent a team jersey to President Obama (which he filmed for his Facebook page) and came under such heat for it that the post had to be deleted. Don't think for a minute that race under the guise of conservatism has nothing to do with this.

I've never been a Mike Vick fan, particularly, and thought he deserved jail time for his heinous crimes. But the sanctimonious criticism directed at anybody who suggests that Vick should have a second chance or that people should simply let him be, has become ugly. And if young Pryor is bold enough to take the heat for simply speaking his mind, even if the sentiment is unpopular, some of us ought to be bold enough to stand with him.

By

Michael Wilbon

 |  September 10, 2009; 1:41 AM ET  |  Category:  College Football , NFL Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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To those who felt the need to respond to my 2nd post personally, maybe you shoud read it again.

I specifically stated that as a Black man, I get tired of hearing the race card for everything. By doing it too much, it's like the boy who cried wolf... no one (like yourselves) will want to listen when it is real.

Also, did you bother to contemplate what I was trying to convey with the example of the group of three year olds? If you think that has no merit then I know I should just stop right here.

John Brown is one of my heroes, so to speak. If this history has eluded you, he was a WHITE man who sacrificed his life in an effort to end one of the most unjust institutions in the history of this nation, SLAVERY. I am also familiar with the part of history that points out the fact that AFRICANS captured or helped capture other Africans to be placed into the bondage of slavery. For this reason, I am intelligent enough to like or dislike each person based on his/her character and not skin color. My thoughts and actions are truly the ONLY control I have over racism. I know it's idealistic, but if more people, rather than less people (Black, White or otherwise) made this same decision we would have less or no racism.

I certainly liked and agreed with with one point... "My question is does Vick feel he should be put to death whenever he does not perform well on a football field."

Oh yeah, I am well aware that White people can be the victim of racism too. Racism is stupid and wrong no matter who does it.

I wanted to give clarity (which I thought I had already done) to my 2nd post, but as I ended with yesterday, this is not the forum.

Thank you and may you have a wonderful, non-racist life.

Posted by: alhajjhar | September 11, 2009 6:09 PM
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Excellent article, it was accurate and correct. This young man should be applauded for having an opinion and then sticking to it despite what others think and say. I wish more athletes would speak out and I wish the 'fans' that think their opinion should be the only opinion would just shut their mouths and watch the game. Time will tell with Vick and last time I checked he, Vick, is allowed to have friends and supporters, regardless of his past.

Posted by: cdmyles11 | September 11, 2009 3:09 PM
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Mr. Wilbon--excellent article. Pryor shuold not be villified for his thoughts. Now, if someone wanted to engage him in debate and explain why Vick should not be given a second chance (a position I disagree with but that's for another day) then have at it. But don't lower yourselves to the depths I have seen over this.

And as for the poster who asked you not to "shoehorn" race into anyhting, I generally agree that you, Lebatard, and others always seem to work race into the discussion, and while I too wonder why, in this case I am right with you. As much as I despise Calapari for being a cheater, I too am quite certain that the Kentucky fan base had much more sinister reasons for not agreeing with the decision to send the Pres. a jersey. I may not agree w/the man's politics (see my handle) but I know he's a basketball fan and sending him a jersey is pretty harmless.

Posted by: NobamainFla | September 11, 2009 2:23 PM
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Pryor's inarticulate response reminds me of Patrick Ewing's inarticulate response following Georgetown's NCAA basketball national championship. People were aghast that a college student at a highly respected school could barely speak. Why does race matter? Why should anyone apologize or fear being called a racist when a college student speaks so inarticulately? Why shouldn't citizens of OH be upset since their tax dollars are being wasted to educate Pryor? But then again, everyone knows that Pryor is not matriculating, he is playing football. This is the only true certainty that no one can disagree with. Way to cover for the dumb jocks MW.

Posted by: jldlott1 | September 11, 2009 12:01 PM
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So if Pryor was simply inarticulate, what did he really mean by "everybody murders, everybody steals?"

Here's my interpretation. Pryor relates to Vick the football player as well as Vick the person . . .including Vick's heart of darkness.

Please don't patronize the public. We know what we heard. Pryor has the right to express himself and we have the right to draw logical conclusions from his expressions.

Posted by: asbloom | September 11, 2009 10:34 AM
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As quarterback, Pryor is the leader of his team, and his conduct and character are perhaps more scrutinized than that of other positions. And though he doesn’t draw a salary, he represents Ohio State and benefits from the school’s support, both financial and otherwise. Taking a controversial stand on something diverts attention away from his team and that in itself is counterproductive to what any college program aims to accomplish. The lesson here is that unfortunately, character and conduct take a secondary role to skill on the playing field – both on the collegiate level and professionally as the Vick case illustrates.

Posted by: dcfilm2 | September 11, 2009 8:44 AM
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"Same thing was evident in Kentucky where John Calipari sent a team jersey to President Obama (which he filmed for his Facebook page) and came under such heat for it that the post had to be deleted. Don't think for a minute that race under the guise of conservatism has nothing to do with this."

Michael Wilbon, thank you for saying what I know to be true about how the so-called conservatives opposing President Obama really feel. It's racism not conservatism that motivates people to do things like that. They bring shame upon this country. As far as Vick goes I'm with you as I've never put him in the QB class with McNabb. I think he's a gifted athlete who could become an impact player for the Eagles if used right. And people get over it!!! Vick did his time (Leavenworth isn't Camp Cupcake) and he should be able to make a living.

Posted by: billm32 | September 11, 2009 6:50 AM
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The problem with Pryor is that for the past four years or so he has a history of making some very questionable comments or having committed some very questionable acts that many feel justify the criticism he has recieved. One might say that he has an attitiude.

Posted by: state82 | September 11, 2009 2:20 AM
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LHAJJHAR - 2nd posting - could not find first one. This one revised
The reason why things always seem to be labeled as racist is that blacks can’t accept that their actions have consequences. Vick and/or his accomplices stole people’s pets, cut their hind legs, and then threw them in the rings to be killed by trained killer dogs. As little boys, girls, and families were out putting up LOST posters trying to find their loved pets, Vick was making millions from the same people through their patronage of TV and football. Vick said the animals that he personally killed were not worth having because they did not perform well at their occupation as a fighting dog. My question is does Vick feel he should be put to death whenever he does not perform well on a football field. After all, he is making millions and the dog is only getting dogfood. When Vick acts like a thug and others follow him, this makes him a drain on society. If blacks want to act like thugs, and try to convince others how dangerous they are, is it not reasonable to assume that they will then be treated as dangerous, thuggish and criminal? When will the racist label end, when a small percentage of blacks accept that by not living up to the minimal moral standards of society and try to live like they care about something other than bling, booze, drugs, intimidation and hatred. Many whites voted for Obama to be our President because we wanted to give him an opportunity and hopes he succeeds. Without white support, it would NEVER have happened. We want racial harmony, but it’s hard when thugs like Vick walk the streets and young blacks want to emulate him not only on the field but in the streets too.

Posted by: 1bmffwb | September 11, 2009 1:18 AM
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AL HAJJHAR
Everyone gets tired of having the race card pulled. Everyone experiences what they perceive as discrimination at some time. Many blacks seem to have made a lifeform of crying racism. When will you ever get over it? Never! Obama could never have been elected if there was not a giant amount of white people voting for him and adoring him. Michael Vick was part of a ring which stole other peoples animals, often times hamstringing them and then use them as bait for killer attack dogs. His dogs that did not perform well were killed. Did anyone ever kill this football player who was paid millions and failed out on the football field? If blacks didnt purposely try to act menacing and play out the thug routine maybe the would be looked at in a different light. Is it unreasonable to think if you go around trying to act dangerous that people would prejudge you to be so. Back to sports, Why would anyone want to see someone make millions of more dollars playing Pro football when the previous weekend they were out putting up LOST posters of their dog that was missing and they are hoping no harm came to him. Then they watch kids buy jerseys of the THUG that led the rings that stole the dogs. Doing the short amount of time that is celebrity brought him doesnt cut it. Hes only allowed to play to take away the possibility that he is being discriminated against. I hope hes changed, but he is not forgiven

Posted by: 1bmffwb | September 11, 2009 12:51 AM
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... "jeez, do all black people live their life like this?"

The truly sad thing about the state of race relations in this country is that after all of these years of witnessing/hearing about it/EXPERIENCING it, etc., we as a nation still do not have the collective maturity and desire to end it. We as adults are supposed to be mature as compared to children, yet, you can put a group of three year olds together composed of Caucasian, African-American, Latino, Oriental, Middle-Eastern and American Indians (who had this country stolen from them), etc. and unless someone has TAUGHT them to be racist at an extremely early age, racism would NEVER show its ugly face among those children. I doubt that TP had any racist intention in the way he showed his support for MV. I also doubt that he (at 20) realized that wearing Vick's name was a slap in the face to those who still have a distaste for MV and as such have attacked his opinion and form of expression; they have a right to feel that way. But if you break it down, I would imagine that many who hold that opinion have always been animal lovers, while sadly, many would rather we still have a system in which a Black college QB be converted to receiver or defensive back in the NFL (since they are not smart enough to be an NFL QB - LOL) and therefore are jumping on the bandwagon of the true animal lovers.

I have never met the person who posted the question that I included at the beginning of this comment, but I would be willing to bet that they have not had to spend as much as one day in this society as a Black man, not to mention 50+ plus years as such. Being a Black man myself, I cannot stand it when someone plays the race card as a matter of convenience (not that I'm accusing MW of doing so,) but you'd better bet -- RACISM IS ALIVE AND WELL IN OUR SOCIETY. I do not want to go any further as this is not really the forum for it and it will not be eradicated by posting comments on the web.

One other thing, to wish or desire bodily injury to a human being as one comment suggests, IN MY OPINION, is just as low as cruelty to animals; the very thing that has, and still does, haunt Vick.

Posted by: alhajjhar | September 10, 2009 4:33 PM
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MB,
Please stop saying that Vick got a second chance. Ron Mexico (second chance), drugs at the airport (third chance), dog fighting (fourth). Also, if you add in the consistent rumors of academic and personal behavior problems while at VA Tech (daddy's new lexus too), you get quite a few chances for Mr. Vick. If he wasn't so physically talented, he would not have more than one chance. If he paid his debt by serving jail time, and we should move on, ask yourself if you would hire a convicted felon to work for you? Would you work with a dog killer at the post? If you answered yes you are a liar, if you answered no you are a hypocrite. Which is it Wilbon?

Posted by: bestpilotonearth | September 10, 2009 4:18 PM
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"In an era when a Congressman will disrespect the office of the President on WORLD WIDE TV" should read "Congressmen." I'm surprised you remembered all the way back to 2005 when numerous Congressmen were booing Bush during his State of the Union address. Great memory. For those whose memory isn't as great...here's the link:

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2009/09/10/flashback_democrats_boo_bush_at_2005_state_of_the_union.html

Posted by: fushezzi | September 10, 2009 4:09 PM
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"not surprisingly, plays football better than he speaks.'

The fact that this phrase is even uttered shows the ignorance that is portrayed by this article and by other's comments

Pryor said "everyone kills, steals" etc. This is a true statement, the fact that he wasnt allowed to elaborate doesnt make the statement incoherent.

I interpret Pryor as saying since everyone sins people should stop throwing stones while living in a glass house.

It's all about interpretation people, he's 20...

Posted by: jtrufe | September 10, 2009 3:31 PM
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As a Michigan Wolverine fan I find this extremely hilarious.

Posted by: CHICO13 | September 10, 2009 3:01 PM
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If you saw the comments on Calipari's page or on other message boards regarding the President, there would be no doubt that there is a tinge of racism involved with the criticism of Obama.

Posted by: DocHolliday1906 | September 10, 2009 2:49 PM
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I have no problem with Pryor speaking his mind and still think he is a good QB. Glad we get tp speak our minds because I would like to see Vick suffer a career ending injury next time on the field.

Posted by: TJDemo | September 10, 2009 2:26 PM
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I completely stand up for someone expressing their opinions - backing Vick or not, but -
I too am getting a tad tired of the race card being played - white, black, orange, green - whatever, AND whatever a persons back ground. Regardless - at 20 years old someone ought to be articulate enough to be able to state an opinion without sounding absolutely ridiculous "everyone kills...". I mean good grief - even the COMPLETELY uneducated should be able to speak without THAT kind of comment - let alone someone who is supposedly attending an institution such as Ohio St.
THAT'S the root of the issue in my opinion. Why/ how is someone of that age and 'education' level getting through like this? Come on.

Posted by: mikek728 | September 10, 2009 2:22 PM
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I'm not a Vick guy, but I support both Pryor's right to show his support for Vick as well as the Buckeye fans' right to criticize the same action and Wilbon's right to criticize the criticizers and your right to criticize Wilbon and so on. So what if Pryor's less than articulate. We watch him perform as an athlete, not as a debater. Remember Miss Teen South Carolina a few years ago? She was about as articulate as an avocado...

Posted by: randysbailin | September 10, 2009 1:51 PM
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Michael--I agree that we ought to be more respectful, not only of first amendment rights, but in general. I do not agree with the implication that fans don't have the first amendment right to express their distaste for something a member of their favorite team is saying. Many of us disagree, Michael, that "doing your time" is enough. If someone does something bad enough--and Vick has--the road back to public acceptance is longer and tougher than a two-year jail sentence. Unfortunately, the world some of us grow up in may make it seem like "everyone murders or steals." As you say, it's not true. So, the public's response is a reminder that we can't act like Vick was just like everyone else, and that we all should just get over it--as if it were nothing. On the conservativism and race issue, it's hard, after seeing the Republican disrespect for the office of the presidency--let alone President Obama himself--last night, to argue that there they're not connected. Especially when the worst conduct came from a representative of South Carolina. And you may be right that it's playing a role in some of the reaction to Vick and Pryor. But it's not the whole story. I'm not sure how much right-wing conservatives care about human rights, let alone animal rights. There may be as much or more heat on Vick and his supporters (such as southern athletes who think that dog-fighting is just a way of life) from liberals and centrists. And the liberal sentiment, if I may express my version of it, is that while we want to extend compassion to Vick--and hope and pray that he is sincere in his wish to heal what went so badly wrong--we won't forget this until it seems that Vick and his supporters got the message. Many centrists and liberals don't want this swept under the rug and forgotten so quickly. I know that Vick missed playing and missed his money. He feels badly about that. But does he feel badly about fighting dogs and treating them in such a horrifying manner? And even if Pryor admires Vick personally... does he really understand that horror if he's willing to write Vick's name on his face when he's playing? I understand the fan reaction to that. Many of them sincerely want that horror understood. They don't want it swept away, and they certainly don't want to see it embraced.

Posted by: olavsmith | September 10, 2009 12:20 PM
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wilbon somehow manages to find "race" everywhere -- jeez, do all black people live their life like this?

Posted by: bestmick1 | September 10, 2009 12:14 PM
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I hope that when it comes to language that TP, like myself, has the ability to write much better than the manner in which he speaks. I often tell people, if you listen to me speak and read something that I have written, you would think it was two different people.

Back in the 90s when a hot issue was whether or not "Ebonics" (that's EBONy phonICS) should be taught in schools to help African American students learn, I thought the idea was absurd. However, I am an African American who was raised in the inner city and I can speak Ebonics quite fluently; being a Chicagoan, M. Wilbon probably can too. It's a shame that there is truth in his statement that eludes to the possibility/probabilty that TP could be perceived as stupid just because he was not very eloquent in stating HIS opinion.

If one can serve time in jail for drug violations (there is far more HUMAN death related to drugs than to dogs in dogfighting) then
let MV alone and let him PLAY "a game" that is far less significant than presiding over the NATION"S CAPITAL.

Posted by: alhajjhar | September 10, 2009 11:13 AM
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Young Pryor was hopefully just nervous and caught off guard when he had to defend his support of Michael Vick. The same way President Obama was caught off guard when "conservatives" reportedly took there children out of school to stop them from hearing him speak about the value of an education. I believe you are right, a lot of this has bad odor to it and needs to stop......

Posted by: punchdaclock | September 10, 2009 10:47 AM
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Free speech is a right. When you represent a school or company you have to separate your personal opinions and not display them as part of your school or organization because then it becomes part of their label, wanted or not. That is like a New Balance rep wearing a swoosh on a shirt that says "Just Do It". I think you get the idea I am trying to make. Also, Michael Vick is a great athlete and human highlight, but not a good QB. He has never won anything and probably won't any time soon unless McNabb gets him there or retires.

Posted by: JoeKaub | September 10, 2009 10:44 AM
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Michael, I think your judgment of Pryor's comment as being "incoherent" is a rush to judgment.

Raise your hand if you go to get your car fixed and think you are getting a fair shake. Raise your hand if you think that health insurance companies each and every day, and the people that work for them, aren't denying coverage on bogus grounds to people who paid their premiums and that people are dying because of it. Raise your hand if you think the war on drugs, on marihuanna in particular, isn't destroying the lives of thousands, incarcerating people who have hurt no one, destablizing regimes around the world, causing killings around the world, to placate the same type of non-thinking, ideologue folks who refuse to allow Vick to get on with his life. I could go on, but what's the point.

Young people see this and a thousand other major issues like them that bespeak exactly the words that Pryor spoke. Come on, Michael, putting aside the gifted life many of us seem to enjoy, the world really is the way Pryor described it, no? Okay, at least it's a viable perspective, one that can overwhelm anyone, leave anyone a tad inarticulate, if they tried to put a sound bite around it.

Posted by: cohenra | September 10, 2009 10:41 AM
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Great article until this gem from Mr. Wilbon:

"Don't think for a minute that race under the guise of conservatism has nothing to do with this."

Come on man. Just once, can you refrain from shoe-horning race into everything?

Posted by: SadieV | September 10, 2009 9:57 AM
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I watched T.P. play as a high school player. Truly a man among boys! While I hope that he works to become a better communicator, your comparison to the degrading of our country's political process is on point. In an era when a Congressman will disrespect the office of the President on WORLD WIDE TV; how can we be surprised that closed minded fans would attack a kid for having an opinion? Aside from Terrelle's responsibility to improve his ability to communicate, I hope he shrugs this off and has a great season.... Except in November when he squares off against my beloved Wolverines that is.'

Posted by: geneboyer | September 10, 2009 9:40 AM
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Michael,

You make some very important points about free speech here. I think it's also worth noting particularly that Pryor didn't say "I always looked up to Mike Vick because he killed dogs"; what he said was "I always looked up to Mike Vick...because I still think he's one of the best quarterbacks".

Before Vick's involvment with dog fighting, there were an awful lot of people who looked up to Mike Vick for the same reason -- the way he plays football. Should Pryor be vilified for continuing to respect Vick's football talent?

Posted by: blackcorridor | September 10, 2009 9:31 AM
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