Updated: August 26, 2009, 8:57 PM ET Eagles hope to avoid 'ugly scene'
By Sal Paolantonio
PHILADELPHIA -- A massive demonstration is planned to support Michael Vick at Lincoln Financial Field on Thursday, when Vick is expected to make his debut with the Eagles.
The Philadelphia chapter of the NAACP, the Black Clergy of Philadelphia and other local civil rights groups had planned a demonstration to support Vick.
| “We believe Michael Vick has served his time, paid his debt to society and deserves a second chance and the animal rights groups want to hold him hostage for the rest of his life.” -- J. Whyatt Mondesire, president, NAACP's Philadelphia chapter |
However, the Eagles called the NAACP after hearing of the plans for the demonstration at the stadium, and asked them to cancel the rally to stop a potentially "ugly scene," J. Whyatt Mondesire, president of the Philadelphia chapter of the NAACP told ESPN.
Mondesire told The Associated Press later Wednesday evening that his group and the Black Clergy of Philadelphia had decided to proceed with their march on Thursday.
"We believe Michael Vick has served his time, paid his debt to society and deserves a second chance and the animal rights groups want to hold him hostage for the rest of his life," J. Whyatt Mondesire, president of the Philadelphia chapter of the NAACP, said Wednesday. "We think that's patently unfair. It denies Michael Vick's basic civil rights, denies him his ability to make a living."
The Eagles' security operation is planning for individual animal rights protests outside the stadium.
Earlier Wednesday, Mondesire said about a half-dozen groups from around the Philadelphia area were planning to meet at the front of Lincoln Financial Field and begin a march around the stadium prior to the Eagles' preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
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The Eagles have not heard of any planned demonstration or protest from animal rights groups, which met with team management for two hours on Monday at the team's practice facility. Although no local animal rights group have yet to partner with the Eagles or Vick in a local anti-dogfighting campaign, the meeting appeared to end on a positive note and head off any planned massive protest, participants said.
Meanwhile, animal advocates are throwing a tailgate party on the other side of town Thursday for the 2nd Chance Dogs campaign -- a pointed reference to Vick's second chance in the NFL -- to increase awareness of dogfighting and encourage adoption of rescued pit bulls.
The initiative, sponsored by the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, was launched after the Eagles signed Vick, who served 18 months in prison for running a dogfighting ring.
"As a lot of people have pointed out, [Vick's] animals never got a second chance," SPCA chief executive Sue Cosby said. "We need to speak for them."
Local animal advocates seem to be keeping their distance. Rather than protest Vick or work with him, they prefer to use the public debate about his return to the NFL to raise money and awareness of animal cruelty issues.
"The animal welfare groups really have no interest in working with Michael Vick," said Tom Hickey Sr., founder of the Pennsylvania advocacy group DogPAC.
Hickey, who is also a member of the state dog law advisory board, has more than 5,000 signatures on a petition asking the Eagles spend the equivalent of Vick's salary -- $1.6 million -- to establish a rehabilitation and training center for dogs.
Nothing was decided at the meeting, but Hickey felt it was constructive.
"I think it was very educational for the Eagles. It was important that they get involved in the community," he said.
Eagles senior vice president Pamela Browner-Crawley told reporters afterward that "financial support is on the table," along with other resources, but gave no details.
Karel Minor, executive director of the Humane Society of Berks County, wrote on the agency's Web site that he was one of many at the meeting who felt it was time to stop chastising the team and start using its resources to help animals.
"We can make use of the power and influence of the Eagles to make a positive difference," Minor wrote. "We can challenge them to make good on their promise to help us end dogfighting and maybe even more."
Sal Paolantonio is an NFL reporter for ESPN. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report. Philadelphia Eagles prepare for pro-Michael Vick march - ESPN