Vick appearance creates stir in Raleigh

PHILADELPHIA -- Nearly 65,000 people have signed an online petition to have Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick replaced as a guest speaker at an event in Raleigh, N.C.

Days after Vick made the Super Bowl week media rounds, this is another sign that the soon-to-be-free-agent is still a polarizing figure to many people. It will be interesting to see if that affects Vick's ability to find a job with another NFL team.

Vick is scheduled to speak Feb. 12 at the Greater Raleigh Sports Council Evening of Champions. The website for the events says Vick will be interviewed "about his incredible NFL career -- his meteoric rise from poverty to riches and fame, his downfall, and his improbable comeback. His presentation includes what he learned from his mistakes and the consequences, and how he has worked to change his life."

The petition on change.org was created by The Positive Pit Bull, a non-profit organization dedicated to "repairing the reputation" of the breed. The petition calls the scheduled appearance by Vick "insulting and degrading for our community" and asks that he be replaced "immediately with a champion who is representative of what we value in a sports hero."

Harvey Schmitt, president of the Raleigh Chamber of Commerce, told the Raleigh News & Observer last week that replacing Vick is "not going to happen. … We're not celebrating Mr. Vick. He's here to tell a story, an interesting story, about the excesses of sports and celebrity and what it takes to become a better person."

A Facebook event page dedicated to staging a "peaceful protest" at Vick's appearance has more than 1,500 people listed as "Going."

Vick, 33, said he wants to find a starting quarterback job once his Eagles contract expires next month. On the day he cleaned out his locker at the Eagles' facility, Vick talked about how far he'd come in rehabilitating his image in five years -- but also how far he still had to go.

"My thing was always to try to make amends for the things that I've done," Vick said on Jan. 6. "Time heals all wounds. Some people are going to forgive you, some people aren't. My goal was just trying to get people believing through my actions -- the good things I was able to do. That's all I ever wanted. Now that things have taken a turn for the better, I want to keep that momentum."