Vick's Raleigh appearance draws protests
Posted February 4, 2014
Raleigh, N.C. — Whether Michael Vick's rise, fall and return to professional football is a story of redemption or of unpardonable acts is subject to debate this week in Raleigh.
Vick, the keynote speaker Feb. 12 at the annual Greater Raleigh Sports Council's Evening of Champions, served almost two years in federal prison on charges related to a dog-fighting ring run out of a property he owned in Virginia. Since completing his sentence, Vick returned to the spotlight as the quarterback of the National Football League's Philadelphia Eagles and has worked with the Humane Society of the United States. In speaking engagements, he has expressed remorse for his role in dog fighting and has become an advocate for the humane treatment of animals.
Vernessa Roberts, a spokeswoman for the Raleigh Chamber, said that organizers recognized Vick might be a controversial choice.
"Our decision to have Michael Vick as our speaker at the Evening of Champions was made knowing that some would disagree, but our steering committee felt that his career story offers our guests an informative perspective about the excesses of fame and money in celebrity culture. His presentation includes how he made very significant mistakes and how he has learned from the consequences of his actions and subsequently changed his life. His conviction and subsequent reinstatement to the NFL were one of the biggest stories in sports. We believe he has an important message to share," Roberts said.
Among those questioning the Chamber's choice were pit bull advocacy organizations including The Positive Pit Bull, Southern Belle Pit Bull Rescue, South of the Bully Pit Bull Rescue and Merit Pit Bull Foundation. The groups' petition on Change.org, asking that Vick's invitation be revoked, has reached almost 70,000 signatures.
"To elevate someone like Michael Vick, as if HE is a champion and have him speak to young, impressionable athletes is ludicrous," the petitioners wrote. "Please tell the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce Sports Council that having Michael Vick attend and speak at their Evening of Champions event is unacceptable in our community and to replace him immediately with a champion who is representative of what we value in a sports hero."
On their Facebook page, organizers of The Positive Pit Bull noted that an on-site protest was planned at the event, but that they would not be taking part.
Capitol Broadcasting, the parent company of WRAL, has been a longtime sponsor of the Evening of Champions. That sponsorship continues in order to highlight the excellence of local athletes. As a sponsor, CBC has gotten feedback about Vick’s appearance both positive and negative and has shared those comments with the Chamber.