SportsNation debates the racial divide

Updated: October 16, 2007, 5:26 PM ET

Editor's note: As ESPN debates the racial divide in sports and society in recent incidents involving Michael Vick, Donovan McNabb and the Jena 6, here are some of your thoughts:

I believe that Michael Vick is guilty and should be punished, but do you really think that he should be sent to prison for the rest of his life? If so, then why? The federal government found him guilty and is in process of setting a sentence for him, but now the local government in Virginia is planning to do something that is unprecendented and charge him again. The question them becomes if he is guilty of these crimes what should the punishment be. This is the cultural/racial divide. Whites believe he should go to jail for the rest of his life, while blacks say that his sentence should be much less. Is this because blacks believe that they deserve some preferential treatment or because they just don't think the crime warrants that punishment? Is the white perspective based on a cultural perspective of the importance of animals to the family or because have an issue how black athletes think that they are above the law and need to be punished? I think this is a cloudy issue … It's not a simple black-vs.-white issue, but much more than that. It's how intertwined all of this is.
-- mikemitchell32

It's true and I'm not sure that we, as a people, will ever come together. It seems the only thing we can agree on is that we are angry, which gets in the way of understanding one another. The racial divide grows wider everyday. The question we all should be asking ourselves is "Why are we continuing to allow ignorance to dictate how we deal with each other?"
-- kdoyle2133

Race is not an issue here, celebrity maybe but not race. Anyone that committed the crime of torturing dogs for profit would be facing a year in the clink. I believe that America is tired of the perception that celebrities can get away with breaking the law and that is one of the reasons that Vick is facing such a public outrage. Just my $.02.
-- mitch22324

You know what's sad about all of this? There is a real race issue going on in Lousiana -- it was highlighted on Bill Maher's show with Mos Def on Sept. 7 - a group of white kids and a group of black kids got into a fight. The whites were charged with battery and given probation, the blacks are sitting in prison being charged with second-degree attempted murder...

But yet the biggest race issue in this country is Michael Vick (who admitted his guilt) -- and Donovan McNabb (Yeah you get criticized for being black -- not because of the millions of dollars you're making). I don't see why people like Mike Vick who make STUPID decisions, are being debated on race.

The case in Lousiana -- that's a racial problem. That's what there should be outrage and debate about. But nope, not an issue -- we're more worried about Michael Vick. That's what's wrong with this society...
-- LarryCDallas

This is one of the best articles I have ever read. It speaks so much truth. I know coming from a small Midwest town that I don't have the opportunity to really experience the racial cocktail that most larger coastal cities deal with, but I am not blind to the world around me. I may just be sampling the smallest portion of this country, but it comes through just the same. I really appreciate reading an article that sheds so much light on an issue that should of never come to pass. Americans are better than this, all Americans, but just like alot of other Americans, an excuse is what we turn to when times get tough.
-- dclark202003

Used to argue on these sites about how I did not think racism played a role in Vick's case, and even more so in McNabb's foolish comments a week ago. Also thought that as a country we came a long way, then something like the "Jena 6" story comes out and proves me wrong. It's a completely different part of the country than I am from so maybe I'm naive ... but I know that when I make a mental judgement on a situation such as Vick's ... race did not even enter my mind until I checked to see why the message boards were so filled up ... and I still believe that most people make decisions the same way. I also think that articles like this do not help anything.
-- SoXRed0784

This entire case has gone way too far. First of all, it never should have reached media to the extent that it did. Many people have been found guilty of dogfighting and it was never advertised like this. The real question is not whether Vick is guilty or not but does the punishment really fit the crime? The fine alone is more than enough. Why should he not be allowed to play football again? How is that even a consideration?
-- ridinchevy

I used to believe that racism was a thing of the past. Now that I've grown up and seen more of the world, I realize we still have a long way to go. The deep south is still a hotbed of white/black racism, but it doesn't end there. In the West, I witness racism against Hispanics all too frequently. I hear people that I generally consider to be good people say terrible, hurtful things. The common thread is always this: they would never consider themselves to be racist. So, if you want to do something about racism, do this: when you look in the mirror don't ask "Am I racist?" but instead ask "In what way am I racist?" and then do something about it.
-- neederlander

Neederlander -- that's a good point. I used to ask that same question "Am I racist/prejudiced?" and always answered "No." Then I did discover that I had some prejudices over the years and many years ago changed the question to the one you suggested we ask. I hope more people will follow your suggestion - we will all be better for it.
-- kriley0923

Neerlander is pretty much on point. Racism is still alive because of the types of people you mentioned who always say racist stuff behind close doors but don't even realize they're racist. The other kind is the ignorant ones who keep saying racism is dead when they are probably racist themselves. Americans need to face the problem instead of sweeping it under the rug. Racism not being shown in public anymore has just spawned these types of people, not solved the problem of it.
-- antelope591

I have been following this story from the beginning. As a black man, I believe there is definitely racial undertones. But I know for a fact that what he did was terribly wrong. Period. However, I think we all need to take a look at the social divide that exists between white and black people. "In general" Black people are used to seeing degradation, violence, injustice, and murder is common amongst most inner cities. I think these things cause black people to diffuse the severity of certain crimes and tragedies. These things happen so much, unfortunately it is no big deal. This is our reality. The truth hurts, and that is why there is a divide between us. Our reality in America is nowhere close to the reality in yours. There is injustice in our everyday life, where a young black boy sells $50 crack and does 25-to-life, and a young teenage white boy gets caught with a gram of cocaine worth $1,000 and gets sent to rehab and probation. there is the inequality. Where is the rehab for that young black boy, where he should be educated on other avenues to make money to escape the situation to drive him to sell drugs. I speak from first-hand experience, that no black boys grow up and want to sell drugs. It is a frightening thing to do. You have police, other dealers and thiefs, as well as the addicts coming after you. You are never safe, and your life is at risk 24 hours a day. Who would CHOOSE this? As Americans we need to stand together and get a better understanding of each other.
-- Le510roy

When writing about racism, let's not forget about racism blacks throw in the direction of other cultures. Black Americans aren't exempt either. How many primarily created black films/shows depict white people as soulless number crunchers, stooges and boring people? I'd say quite a few. So, when you bring up a white NY depicted in "Friends," let's not forget to point out the legion of rhythmless nerds, dorks and geeks featured in shows primarily populated by black Americans. Does a "fun" and "cool" white man exist? If I were to watch any primarily black movie/show, I'd have my doubts.

Where opinions are allowed and freedom is expressed, racism will always exist. It's a fact of life. I don't condone it, but racism is too often passed down with no real rhyme or reason for it.

I am by no means denying there is an uphill slope for a black kid vs a white kid. I agree with you 100 percent. It's easier to be white. I am pretty sure I've never walked down a street and people just assume trouble because I'm pale. But, do not figure the populous to be so ignorant of black racism geared right back toward other cultures.
-- Yatrix

Honestly, White people are numb to the race issues because you are not the ones directly being negatively impacted by it. Yes, you may have lost out on some jobs a couple of years ago but we have been dealing with racism 24/7/365 [every] year of our life. You will never understand the extent that a black man deals with race on a daily basis. It's a fact! Secondly, the race card has been used to the point that whites don't want to see the real race victims. What Michael Vick did was wrong. No question about it. Race comes in to play when we talk about the punishment and the level of public outrage. The writer brings up Wayne Gretsky because this is another instance where a white person did something and got off with a slap on the wrist. Look at Bill Belichick. Let's call a spade a spade. He cheated, which hurts the integrity of the game. The commissioner is suspending athletes 8 to 16 games for off-the-field infractions and now you are fining a coach and organization for an on-the-field infraction which directly impacts the integrity of the game. All the fans that love football, I didn't see one picketer or any suspension. Was he made to humble himself? Not at all, he simply explained it as a misinterpretation of the rules which is B.S. Look at Willingham and Weis at Notre Dame. O-4,5,6 possible for the first time in their history. Ask yourself, will Weis get fired. NOT! It is what it is. You will never see it because you all don't want to. It is what it is.
-- batting4th