While a lot of Pittsburgh Steelers fans seemed to welcome the arrival of Michael Vick as a much-needed backup quarterback, some say his past is not something they can get over.
“I really don’t have a problem with it,” said Kevin Cambells.
“He did his time. We’ve got to move on,” Don Bailey said.
Even though it’s been six years since Vick finished a prison sentence for financing a dog fighting conspiracy, the stigma of the crime persists.
“I just don’t like those people who do whatever they want and then say, ‘Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it,’” Susan Hicks said.
“I’m not happy, because I’m a dog lover,” said Jan Steckel.
On Wednesday, a small rally by about five women was held across from the Steelers practice facility.
“We need to stand up for Pittsburgh values, and Michael Vick is not that,” said Steelers season ticket holder Natalie Ahwesh.
Several Facebook pages have even been created – some in favor and some in opposition of Vick.
“I was outraged. I was so surprised that Michael Vick was coming here,” said Tara.
Tara, who doesn’t want us using her last name, said she’s received threats after creating a Facebook page called, “Pittsburghers Against Michael Vick.”
The page has more than 13,000 likes.
“I had no idea it was going to blow up into what it is now,” Tara said. “I basically started it for some friends of mine for us to connect and for some other people in the dog rescue community.”
To counter, someone else created a “Pittsburghers For Michael Mick” page. That page has more than 5,000 likes.
Since Vick’s signing, two local animal rescue agencies have distanced themselves from the Steelers.
The Animal Rescue League announced Tuesday that it was ending its relationship with the team, and on Wednesday, Animal Friends followed suite, releasing the following statement:
“Animal Friends is disappointed by the Steelers organization's recent decision to sign Michael Vick to a one-year contract. As an organization whose mission is to fight against animal abuse and suffering, Animal Friends cannot support the hiring of an individual who has been convicted of dog fighting and whose actions resulted in the terrible abuse and deaths of many dogs.
“Accordingly, Animal Friends has made the difficult decision to not participate in any Steelers-related activities at this time. Steelers-related memorabilia and tickets have been temporarily removed from all fundraising efforts and the donated items will be returned. Alternate prize options will be offered for raffles already in progress.
“With dogfighting still a major concern in the Pittsburgh region, we implore the Steelers organization to take a stand and actively campaign against this horrific and illegal activity. The Steelers’ voice can help to build a stronger - and more humane - Steelers nation.”
Vick encountered similar criticism when he played for the Philadelphia Eagle and the New York Jets, but he said he wants Pittsburghers to know that he’ll put in work on the field, and in the near future, he will be reaching out to local groups to continue his outreach work.
“I can’t take it back. The only thing I can do is influence the masses of kids from trying to go down the same path that I went down,” he said.