This past January we decided to dedicate our entire NFL Preview issue to Michael Vick. His story, from All-Pro to inmate and back, had transcended the boundaries of the field and become a flashpoint of conversation. It incorporated sports, society, morality, forgiveness and, yes, race. Among the many questions asked when discussing his crime and punishment – How could he do such a thing? Should he be allowed to play again? Could he ever play again? – was, would he have been punished as severely if he were white? It’s hard to ignore the topic in a fully realized examination of Vick and his impact. As the senior editor of the piece, Raina Kelley, pointed out on CNN [see video here] rather than use vague arguments that skirt the issue, we chose to address it head on. First, in a thoughtful essay by Toure. And, just as important for magazines, with art that lended power to the concept. In the past, designers have challenged readers to consider their views on race by portraying a black Queen Elizabeth II and Pope John Paul II. 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.
For an upcoming Media Beat interview, we also spoke with the article’s author Toure about how he tackles the issue of race online without offending people. The full interview airs on mediabistro.com September 12, but here’s an excerpt.