RALEIGH: Chamber's pick of Vick as speaker draws criticism - WSLS 10 NBC in Roanoke/Lynchburg Va

Raleigh Chamber's pick of Michael Vick as speaker draws criticism

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Michael Vick is the prime speaker at the annual Evening of Champions event at PNC Arena. (AP Photo) Michael Vick is the prime speaker at the annual Evening of Champions event at PNC Arena. (AP Photo)
RALEIGH, N.C. -

The Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce is catching heat over its selection of football star Michael Vick as its prime speaker at the annual Evening of Champions event this February.

The program, scheduled to take place Feb. 12 at PNC Arena, costs as much as $75 a person to attend, and will "salute the stars of local sports," event organizers said.

Vick, who is currently a free agent, played for the Atlanta Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles. However, in 2007, Vick was implicated in an illegal dog fighting ring, for which he pleaded guilty and served time in prison.

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Animal rights activists are protesting the Chamber's decision to include Vick in this year's event.

In fact, a petition to remove him from the program has been signed by more than 15,000 people on the website change.org.

Organizers say attendees of the event will, "Learn the real story about his incredible NFL career, his meteoric rise from poverty to riches and fame, his downfall, and his improbable comeback," according to the event's website.

Harvey Schmitt, president and CEO of the Chamber, told WNCN Sunday that the Chamber was aware the pick would be controversial but made the decision to invite Vick anyway.

Schmitt said Vick will be the "prime" speaker.

"He has returned to society, repaid his debt, and has been involved in a variety of efforts to rectify his wrongs," says Schmitt.

Vick has spent the last few years reshaping his image.

In fact, Raleigh public relations firm French/West/Vaughan was hired to repair Vick's image in 2009.

Jonathan Carlson

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