Michael Vick appearance in Raleigh stirs controversy


Vick is the headliner for the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce Evening of Champions 2014 event February 12.

But animal rights activists say Vick - who pleaded guilty to taking part in a dog fighting ring in 2007 - is the wrong choice, and some 67,000 people have signed an online petition to have him replaced.

Event organizers say the intent is not to glorify Vick's criminal past or animal abuse. They say he will talk about what he learned from his mistakes and how he has worked to change his life through groups like The Humane Society.

"Mr. Vick has a powerful story about both success and personal failure and then efforts on his part to work his way back into a position of redemption and back in into play," explained Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce President Harvey Schmitt.

But a local pit bull advocacy group disagrees.

"There's so many better examples of a champion from North Carolina and in the athletic world to choose from than Michael Vick," offered Erin Cleghorn with The Positive Pit Bull. "He's killed animals, so is he a good example for this event?"

Event organizers said they knew Vick would be a controversial choice.

"We anticipated some of that, perhaps not to the level we have seen," said Schmitt.

Cleghorn said she's glad to see so much support for her group's position.

"We're just a small little organization that really sort of felt passionately about this, so it's great to see we're not the only ones," she said.

Still, the chamber says Vick has an important story that people should hear.

"You don't allow failure to define your life and you work hard to make improvements and to make a contribution. And if you look at the record, we think Mr. Vick would have done that and it's an important story to share," said Schmitt.

"I just feel like the chamber could have made a better choice," said Cleghorn.

Tickets for the event are still on sale for $60 to $75.

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