Michael Vick's Butler Appearance—'Disgusting' to Some—to Benefit Tri-Boro Animal Shelter
Business owners, residents react to controversial professional football player coming to borough.
As tri-boro residents and business owners have criticized this week's announcement of controversial NFL quarterback Michael Vick's June autograph-signing in Butler, the card store's owner said Thursday he will donate a portion of the day's proceeds to a yet-to-be-determined national organization that combats dogfighting, as well as the Tri-boro Animal Shelter.
Butler Sports Cards, Inc. owner Jeff Robbins plans to donate 5 percent of his sales on June 19. But Tri-Boro Animal Welfare President Cheryl Canale said she is not sure if the shelter will accept the donation, which she described as a "knee-jerk reaction" to some of the public's negative feelings about the event.
"I think donations are greatly appreciated," she said. "Would somebody think that it was tainted money? I don't know."
Canale said she was not comfortable commenting specifically on her thoughts of Vick coming to town.
"I don't feel comfortable making any kind of comment on this," she said. "I don't believe in dogfighting. Certainly, it's a terrible thing, but that's my personal opinion. I don't feel like I'm in a position to comment on somebody else's life."
Others have not shied away from expressing their feelings.
"It's disgusting," Dee Maharg, a Bloomingdale resident and Tri-boro Animal Welfare volunteer, said. "And I'll never frequent the shop that he's going to be at, now or ever."
Vick spent 18 months in prison after being convicted on charges of running a dogfighting operation. After he was released, he returned to the National Football League and is now a member of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Even though Robbins has received numerous calls to the store and even his cell phone criticizing Vick's expected appearance, he believes the NFL quarterback's autograph, which will start at $90, is highly sought by fans.
"He's the most desired autograph in all of sports right now," Robbins said Monday. "The No. 1 autograph that people want is Michael Vick. He came back last year and it was the first year that he was ever focused on football."
But while some choose to focus on Vick's accomplishments on the field, others cannot look past the animal mistreatment charges that sent him to prison.
"He's still sick, a sick person. If he's smart enough to play professional football and remember plays, if he's smart enough to do that, how dumb or horrible [is he] to do what he did?" Maharg said, comparing Vick to cult leader Charles Manson when talking about who she described as "sick people."
Speaking personally, and not on behalf of Tri-boro Animal Welfare, Maharg said she would not take the donation if it were up to her. Maharg said she would rather Robbins donate to the shelter when it was not a result of Vick's autograph signing.
While a call seeking comment was not returned by the Bloomingdale Animal Shelter, Vick's planned appearance has been a topic of conversation in animal shelters even outside the tri-boro.
"We have discussed him and our feeling is, they're mixed," Glory Bracken, a volunteer with the West Milford Animal Shelter Society, said. "He went to jail he served his time. He seems to be accepted back very readily. We're uncomfortable with the situation."
Some Butler residents against Vick's appearance have formed a Facebook page to express their frustrations. According to the Facebook event "Sick Vick the Dog Abuser Coming to Butler, NJ," a few are even planning a peaceful protest with signs and banners.
Butler Police Capt. Ciro Chimento said if the protest does happen, it will not be the first peaceful protest Butler has seen.
"There have been peaceful assembly protests in regards to the war efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq," Chimento said. "No arrests were made, all parties were very passive."
Chimento also wanted to convey the following:
"It is every individuals' constitutional right to stage peaceful protests, however, the Butler Police will not tolerate unlawful actions from any one individual or group. The Butler Police is prepared to take action in order to protect life and property, including arresting those who may cause harm to Mr. Vick or any representative of the Butler Sports Card shop. Any individual, or group, contemplating disruption of of motorist and/or pedestrian traffic, acts of criminal mischief, and or assaults shall be dealt in accordance with the New Jersey Laws and borough ordinances. Any group wishing to peacefully assemble on borough property shall also be directed to do so in accordance to existing borough ordinances."
Chimento said police will not be patrolling the event, unless Robbins hires off-duty officers at a cost of $85 per hour. Robbins indicated that he has already hired two plainclothes security guards to be at the event, and that he also plans to hire some Butler police officers.
Despite the negative opinions, some Main Street business owners are excited for Vick's appearance.
"I'm not a big fan of him at all, I'm a Giants fan," Ankit Kakkad, owner of Butler Dollar Plus and Party, said. "I'm not a fan of what he did, but he's a celebrity, he will bring people here, so as long as it helps the business, I could care less."
Robbins said he has had to field dozens of calls from animal activists who are upset about the event, but that he told one of the callers his intentions for the donation.
"She thought that was very nice of me," he said. "Am I going to cancel the event? There's not even a .01 chance. Do I have a problem donating money? No."