Thousands plan to protest Michael Vick appearance

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Michael Vick (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images for Saks Fifth Avenue)

Michael Vick (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images for Saks Fifth Avenue)

Thousands of people are planning to protest the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce’s “Evening of Champions” because Michael Vick will be a guest speaker.

Over 66,000 supporters have signed a petition on Change.org, calling for Vick to be replaced as the Feb. 12 event’s keynote speaker.

The former NFL star was released from prison in 2009 after spending 19 months behind bars for pleading guilty to his part in a Virginia dog fighting ring.

“The chamber’s decision to feature Michael Vick as a headliner at the event is insulting and degrading for our community and certainly does nothing to represent the business interest in our community,” the petition reads. “To elevate someone like Michael Vick, as if HE is a champion and have him speak to young, impressionable athletes is ludicrous.”

The Chamber stands by its decision to have the former NFL quarterback speak, saying on their Facebook page that they selected Vick “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.”

President and CEO of the Chamber  Harvey Schmitt told NBC affiliate WNCN that they are reviewing all concerns.

“There is a group of folks, who are very unhappy with Mr. Vick for a variety of reasons — and they are passionate about it,” Schmitt said.

He shared that the Chamber is looking forward to the event and honoring local sports stars.

Follow Carrie Healey on Twitter @CarrieHeals