WASHINGTON TWP. — The sound of baseball was in the air, but football was on the minds of about 100 autograph seekers Saturday at the Washington Township Sports Complex in Sewell.
While Eagles quarterback Michael Vick signed helmets, photos and jerseys for an hour upstairs, in an appearance arranged by Sports Integrity, kids were hitting baseballs downstairs inside the half-dozen batting cages.
And why did Luca Ensman, who will be 8 Monday, wait in line for Vick’s signature? “Because I like the Eagles,” he said, “and he always gets some points.”
Tom Ensman, 31, Luca’s stepfather, wore a red Phillies cap to the signing, which cost $80 per ticket.
“It is his birthday — that is all he wanted for his birthday present,” Ensman said in explaining why he drove Luca from Mantua for the autograph session.
Jerome Cohen and his 15-year-old son, Dimitri, drove from Lakewood to get Vick’s signature.
“I like how talented he is and how cool he is and how he bounced back,” Dimitri said. “He showed he could change.”
Vick, who chose not to talk to the media, served almost two years in jail for his involvement in a dog-fighting ring.
“He was at the top of his game, and he was knocked down, and he has a second opportunity that he is making the most of,” said Jerome Cohen, 47, a police officer in Lakewood who serves as a school resource officer.
“I thank God I live in a society where second chances are still given.”
Outside the complex, which is off Delsea Drive, there were about two dozen protestors, many holding anti-Vick signs.
“I’m here to raise awareness of Michael Vick,” said Maureen Koplow, 68, of Deptford. “This is where Michael Vick is, and he is signing autographs for $80 — that is a shame.”
Karen Quigley held her white pit-bull, Mack, on a leash. Mack is a rescue dog from Camden.
“What is most upsetting is he is charging $80 and he is making millions,” said Quigley, who lives in Washington Township. “People say he is a changed man, but it is business as usual.”
Sabrina Hay, 35, didn’t have to ride far to see Vick because she lives in Washington Township. She was inside getting an autograph.
“I would still go to see him, even if he wasn’t in town,” said Hay, a season-ticket holder. “I just love him. When he gets that football and when he leans back to throw it ... I freak out.”
HI Mr. Davis,
I read your recent article in the Gloucester County Times today regarding the protest held in Sewell, NJ at the Vick autograph event. I was unable to attend due to my work schedule but many of my friends did attend. I read your article and thought it was good until I read near the end..."Vick has stepped up his efforts as an animal rights activist". At that point I wanted to scream. Now please before you roll your eyes and mutter the words "Oh great another animal nut", I want you to hear me out first. I believe in peaceful protests against Vick, not to yell at his fans but to let him know that we are still out there and will be to remind him of what he did to the dogs. The general public have forgiven him but true animal rights activist such as myself have not. Vick has done nothing to redeem himself in our eyes because his so called lectures are PR stunts and totally scripted. His handful of lectures are to young children who only care that he is a "football star". He has never reached out to the animal groups to talk with them and apologize. He doesn't care to do that and never will. He doesn't allow questions and answers at his lectures and his audience is too young to truly ask him any important questions such as "what have you done to care for your surviving dogs?" Vick has never donated a dime to any rescue organization. Twenty two of his surviving dogs went to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah. They were labeled the Vicktory Dogs and have made great progress, many of them now adopted and loving life. Vick has never made an effort to help with their care. Why not Mr. Davis? Why do my donations pay for his dogs? If he was a true animal activist and is so sorry for what he did, shouldn't he step up to help pay for their day to day expenses? I could go on and on about what he should do but the reality is, he won't. It comes down to the fact he is only sorry he was caught and now that he is making his giant salary, he does not care.
I am a true animal activist along with many others. I run a rescue for special needs animals, I help people spay/neuter their pets, I go to classrooms and speak to children about kindness to animals, I peacefully protest against puppy mills, I help other rescues and shelters raise money, I am the voice of animals that need help. I have traveled to Best Friends in Utah for the past 13 years along with friends to volunteer to work for 12 days as my vacation. I am insulted that you put him in the same category as myself and other true animal activists. I do all this for no pay, no praise, no glory, no pat on the back, I strictly do it for the animals. Now do you really think he is my equal in the eyes of the animals? I don't think so.
Joyce Moyer (of Joa’s Arc)
Maureen wrote: "Vick, who has a $100 million contract with the Eagles ($40 million guaranteed) charged children $80 for his autograph. Not one dime of his money has gone to help animals. The Eagles team has donated a small pittance, but nothing came out of Vick's pockets. The short time he spent in jail was not for animals abuse, but for racketeering and gambling. He has never apologized for what he did to the dogs at his Bad Newz Kennel. He has never provided information about other dog fighters, people involved in a "sport" that involves illegal gambling, drugs, and racketeering in addition to the attrocities perpetrated on the dogs. In spite of his "second chance" to be a multi-millionaire, neither he nor the Eagles have worked to provide second chances to other ex convicts. He blamed his behavior on his upbringing, as though being a black child in the South made criminal activity inevitable. What an incredible insult to all the children from similar backgrounds who grew up to be compassionate and caring adults. Vick admitted taking pleasure in slamming his losing dogs to the ground, hanging them by the neck, drowning them and electrocuting them. He participated in these activities until he was caught, and has not received psychological counseling or treatment to address these barbaric acts. Yes, we were out there protesting while he sat inside raking in money for his signature. Yes, we hold a grudge. How sad that this man whose only redeeming trait is his ability to throw a ball is placed on a pedestal and given adulation. Shame on Vick and shame on the media who refuse to tell the truth about Vick."