Michael Vick knows a thing or two about trying to get back into the NFL. The reasons for his unemployment were, of course, far different than those of Colin Kaepernick, but Vick offered this piece of advice Monday to the ex-49ers quarterback: Tame your hair.
Along with his growing interest in social issues in 2015, Kaepernick began growing his hair, and by the 2016 preseason games, when he first declined to stand for the national anthem, he had a sizable Afro. According to Vick, the free agent quarterback should “try to be presentable,” even if that means simply wearing his hair more tightly to his head.
After Jason Whitlock suggested to Vick on Fox Sports’s “Speak for Yourself” that Kaepernick needed to speak up about his desire to play football, the former Atlanta Falcons quarterback said, “The first thing we’ve got to get Colin to do is cut his hair.”
“Listen, I’m not up here to try to be politically correct,” Vick, 37, continued. “Even if he puts cornrows in there, I don’t think he should represent himself in that way, in terms of just the hairstyle. Just go clean-cut, you know, why not? You’re already dealing with a lot, a lot of controversy surrounding this issue, and the most important thing he needs to do is just try to be presentable.”
Vick’s comments quickly drew criticism and he walked them back in a Tuesday morning tweet. “Colin Kaepernick’s hair has nothing to do with him not being on a NFL roster right now. Let’s be clear!” he wrote. “I wish only the best for Colin. I stand by what I’ve said about him being signed at some point this season to help a NFL club. I think he is a great kid who has a bright future and I’m looking forward to seeing him on the field again. Trust and believe what I said was not in malice.”
As far as Vick concerned, he told Fox that he thought the main reason the 29-year-old Kaepernick, who opted out of his 49ers contract shortly before free agency began in March (San Francisco General Manager John Lynch subsequently said the team would have cut him), has been unable to sign with another team is that he has not been as “productive” over the past two seasons as he was earlier in his career, when he led the Niners to two straight NFC championship games and a Super Bowl appearance.
That analysis echoed comments that Vick, whose career in Atlanta ended when he was sent to federal prison for running a dogfighting ring and who went on to play for the Eagles, Jets and Steelers, made on Colin Cowherd’s Fox Sports show, guest-hosted Monday by Whitlock. “It has nothing to do with him being blackballed,” Vick said of Kaepernick’s unemployment.
“The gesture that he made last year when he took the stand to do what he did, listen, we all appreciated it, we respected it, and it was a good thing. I really think the stand that he took has nothing to do with him not having a job playing in the National Football League right now. And being frank, Colin didn’t have the best two years his last two seasons.”
— Speak For Yourself (@SFY) July 17, 2017
Like Kaepernick, Vick was a quarterback who could hurt defenses with his exceptional running ability but whose throwing accuracy and ability to dissect defenses were frequently subpar. As some others have said of the ex-Niner, such as Steve Young, Vick declared that Kaepernick’s immediate goal should be finding “a team that suits his skill set,” as opposed to one that runs a more conventional offense, where “it’s going to take him so long to adjust and learn the system, protections, blitzes, what to look for, receivers.”
On “Speak Your Mind,” though, Vick asserted that Kaepernick should put a priority on changing his appearance, saying, “I just think perception and image is everything. This is not the Colin Kaepernick that we’ve known since he entered the National Football League.
“I’m just going off my personal experiences,” Vick added. “Listen, I love the guy to death. But I want him to also succeed on and off the field, and this has to be a start for him.”
Robert Littal of Black Sports Online was among some who took issue with Vick’s comments, writing, “It is sad we as black people still have to deal with what I call the perfection double standard, it is so disheartening to see Michael Vick of all people essentially say that for Colin Kaepernick to play in the NFL he needs to shuck and jive for NFL owners.”
“We aren’t supposed to be judged by the color of our skin or our haircuts, we are supposed to be judged by our actions,” Littal wrote. “So, if you have a fade and wear a suit, that makes you a better person?”
Anticipating such a reaction, Whitlock asked Vick, “What would you say to people [who might say], ‘Oh, so he’s got to sell out to get back in the NFL, he can’t keep it real?’ ”
“It’s not about selling out,” Vick replied. “If you’re good, and you’re playing great, then you’re going to be wanted … In regards to him just not being signed right now, it has to do with the production over the last couple of years.”
Of his own playing-days experiences with getting advice to change his appearance, Vick said, “I didn’t listen until the end. Until I was going through the turmoil and the hardships, and it was very difficult, and then I started to see what was most important. And that was cleaning up, changing my image, not just for public perception, but for the judge and everything I was about to get involved in.
“It was a difficult process, and it was one I didn’t like, but it was one I had to accept.”