michael vick *Five years after being released from prison Michael Vick still can’t shake his dogfighting past.

According to reports, the NFL star’s upcoming appearance at the Greater Raleigh (North Carolina) Chamber of Commerce’s “Evening of Champions” has been met with opposition from those who feel his presence is the last thing they or any young athlete needs. So much so that a petition on Change.org, requesting that Vick be replaced at the “Evening of Champions,” has collected more than 66,000 signatures.

“The chamber’s decision to feature Michael Vick as a headliner at the event is insulting and degrading for our community and certainly does nothing to represent the business interest in our community,” the petition stated. “To elevate someone like Michael Vick, as if HE is a champion and have him speak to young, impressionable athletes is ludicrous.”

The opposition to Vick’s appearance at the “Evening of Champions” comes half a decade after the athlete was released from prison in 2009. Vick spent 19 months in prison upon pleading guilty to his role in a dogfighting ring in Virginia.

Despite the protest over Vick, the Chamber is sticking to its guns as it stands by its decision to have the athlete speak. According to its Facebook page, the Chamber selected Vick “knowing that some would disagree, but our steering committee felt that his career story offers our guests an informative perspective about the excesses of fame and money in celebrity culture.”

Speaking to NBC affiliate WNCN, Chamber President and CEO Harvey Schmitt mentioned how the Chamber is looking forward to honoring local sports stars at the “Evening of Champions” as well as the event itself. Regarding the uproar over Vick’s appearance at the event, Schmitt summed it up with a simple observation.

“There is a group of folks, who are very unhappy with Mr. Vick for a variety of reasons — and they are passionate about it,” he said, adding that the Chamber is reviewing all concerns over Vick.