RALEIGH: Raleigh Chamber not backing down despite Vick critics - WSLS 10 NBC in Roanoke/Lynchburg Va

Raleigh Chamber not backing down despite Vick critics

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RALEIGH, N.C. -

The Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce is not backing down, after its selection of former football star Michael Vick as prime speaker at the annual Evening of Champions event draws tens of thousands of complaints.

WNCN first broke the story, which has since gotten national attention, as animal rights activists continue to protest the selection. Viewers and readers have flooded WNCN's website and social media sites to express their views on the topic.

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A petition demanding the Chamber remove Vick from the program has been signed by more than 53,000 people on the website change.org.

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.

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 the Chamber was aware the pick would be controversial.

Thursday, Schmitt said of those protesting, "We've heard their concerns and are reviewing their concerns."

However, he fell short of saying the speaking gig is in jeopardy.

"The event is scheduled for Feb. 12 and we're looking forward to it," he said.

"There is a group of folks, who are very unhappy with Mr. Vick for a variety of reasons --- and they are passionate about it," he added.

He wants to make it clear, the night is not about Vick but the local sports stars being spotlighted.

"The recognition is not for Mr. Vick," he stressed.

"Mr. Vick has an interesting story to tell. It is one of an attempt for his personal redemption."

The Chamber couldn't tell us how much Vick is being paid for his Raleigh visit, but confirmed, "Yes, there are expenses associated with his arrival," said Schmitt.

The critics aren't just online. WNCN spoke with the Wake County SPCA, who said they are "confused and perplexed" at Vick being hired to speak.

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