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Philly Black's Support Vick

The Philadelphia Tribune, News Report , Arlene Edmonds Posted: Aug 19, 2009

Many Blacks here have expressed a rather different sentiment over the Eagles signing of Michael Vick than their neighbors in other communities in the region. Many who were approached stated the intense backlash the team and Vick have received, borders on racism.

The quarterback was added to the roster by Eagles staff last week, after serving 18 months of a 23-month sentence for his role in a dog-fighting operation. Since then, coverage and response of his signing have reached a fevered and divisive pitch.

I am very annoyed with the responses Ive been hearing from Caucasians, said Joan Preston of West Oak Lane. They just cant believe that the Eagles signed him. My consensus is that it is racism. I say this because a Black person has to be perfect. If a Black person makes a mistake, they feel he should be annihilated and thrown away like trash.
Preston is quick to single out a news story a few years ago where a Pennsylvania pound was charged with abusing animals. She said at that time, the white community was not stating the pound should be closed.

They were charged, but it just died down in the (mainstream) media and the business went on, she said. It just seems to me that when youre Black, you just have to be accused of a crime to be attacked. If you are charged, then your life should be over. I do not think that is fair.

Knowledge Divine of East Oak Lane feels Vick has paid his debt to society by serving 18 months behind bars. He expressed that Vick now realizes the severity of what he has done. He chalks up his behavior to immaturity and community indoctrination.

Divine used the analogy of growing up in Philadelphia during the height of the gang warfare. He recalled being in day care with other boys who lived on the other side of the community. By the time they were about 10 or 12 years old, they had to join the neighborhood gang. Some of those who he used to play with had become his enemies.

I realized that this didnt make sense, but I knew I had to fight if I wanted to walk across a certain boundary, Divine said. Some of the guys, however, internalized the gang attitudes and developed a subculture. It was like it became a moral issue. Vick was a victim of his environment. Sure, what he did was cruel, but he didnt see it on that level because dog fights were part of his (upbringing).

Divine added that Vicks immaturity came into play, because he should have realized that it was cruelty to animals. He said many American boys in all cultures go through a phase where they engage in mischievous behavior to animals, but then they outgrow it and realize its wrong.

Boys will kill bugs and string a cat things like that, and dont really think its killing life, Divine said. Then after a time, you have to realize that this behavior is not correct.

Similar to Preston, Divine feels that the mainstream society is harder on African Americans.

He pointed to former Vice President Dick Cheney who accidentally shot a man in the head while hunting. I didnt hear any remorse about that.

He also pointed out Martha Stewart, who was able to resume her career after she was charged with misconduct, according to Divine. Divine noted Stewart has probably become more successful after her notoriety and yet no one has asked her to give up her career.

I hate to harp on the racial double standards, but its there, Divine said. I could see if his offense was related to football. If he had harmed another player or did something illegal in the game, that would be a different story. I think he deserves the opportunity to make money doing what he does well.

Thelma Anderson of Mount Airy said she was hesitant about discussing race in this case, but it had to be addressed.

She said it seems society is not as forgiving when an African-American errs, as they would be of their white counterparts.

If Vick was of another persuasion, it would not have gotten this much attention, Anderson said. He was engaging in something that was part of his culture, the way other cultures have their cock fights. Sure it was wrong, but he served his time. If you believe in our judicial system and a democratic society, then you should realize that he paid his debt to society. I love dogs, but I feel he should now be given another chance.

Outside the Black community, Vicks return to the NFL with the Eagles has received mixed reaction.

Some hardcore Philly fans who bleed Eagles green were seeing red on Friday, a day after the team signed the former Atlanta Falcons quarterback to a two-year deal.

Meanwhile, others credited the franchise for giving Vick a second chance after his conviction.

Opinions of those around Philadelphia were as diverse as Eagles fans themselves.

Because of the Vick signing, Maryanne Aros said her Eagles tickets will go begging this year.

Im a die-hard Eagles fan, I was born and raised following the Birds, I have pictures of myself, 3 years old, in an Eagles uniform, its the way I bond with my father but I cant, said the 23-year-old who was dressed in red Phillies garb as she protested outside the Eagles practice facility following Vicks introductory news conference.

I cant go to the games, I cant watch anymore, said Aros, who was holding a sign showing pictures of dog fights and asking Why do (Eagles CEO) Jeffrey Laurie and (president) Joe Banner condone this?

But a few steps away, 33-year-old Christopher Cabrera, of Merchantville, N.J., had outfitted his 4-year-old pit bull Tyson with a makeshift Vick jersey.

Im in favor of him getting another chance, Cabrera said. What he did was wrong, but everybody deserves a second chance in America. And if everybody was persecuted for the skeletons we dont know in their closets, everyone would hate everybody, and thats not the way youve got to be.

Throughout the city, Philadelphia area residents debated the surprise signing of Vick.

I think he should be in jail, said 26-year-old David Owens, who was strolling through Rittenhouse Square with 5-1/2-year-old Shiloh, a German Shepherd/Labrador mix. I think he needs psychiatric help; I think its an illness. But he shouldnt be playing sports.

But 55-year-old artist Rich Bedenbaugh, walking a 2-1/2-year-old Shih Tzu in another part of the park, was more forgiving.

He served time but he seems like hes really sorry, Bedenbaugh said. Hes a good player. He might take us to the Super Bowl.

The signing set off arguments on South Philadelphia street corners.

Giovanni Spadea, 63, standing with a group of men outside an Italian coffee shop, said pro sports figures used to be role models.

Where is the ideal image for the young children today? There isnt any, he said. And all the owners, managers, they should be thinking in the same line. Not everythings about money, money, money, money.

Dan Cardi objected, saying: The guy made a mistake. He shouldnt be hanged for it. He served his time. I think its OK. I love him in Philly.

Related Articles:

Vicks Sentence Shows America's Racist Ways

Should Vick Do Time?

'Gonzales, You Forgot Us!'; 'Michael Vick, Grow Up'; & the 'Stanford Duck Syndrome'

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