Two hours before New York Jets quarterback Michael Vick's Comedy Explosion began at the Strand in Shreveport, La. on July 12, around 100 animal rights activists staged a protest outside the venue. Vick was involved in a dog-fighting ring seven years ago.
According to The Shreveport Times' Maya Lau, an estimated 100 animal rights activists protested Vick, who was involved in a dog-fighting ring in 2007, being in town:
"Two hours before Michael Vick's Comedy Explosion premiered at The Strand Saturday night, some 100 animal rights activists congregated catty-corner from the downtown theater with their dogs, stuffed animals of dogs, and graphic images of canines with mutilated faces.
"The group's messages -- 'I'm against animal cruelty!' as one of their handmade signs put it -- was to protest Vick, the New York Jets quarterback who admitted to being involved in a dog-fighting ring in 2007.
"Across the street, a separate gathering of around 30 people stood behind a poster with the words 'Forgive' and 'All Have Sinned.' We just wanted to be the other side,' said Dorian Ford, who believes Vick has served enough time behind bars and deserves to move on. 'This show brings income and jobs.'
"But what emerged as the more compelling source of tension surrounding Vick's show was the apparent racial divide between the two groups, an observation not lost on both sets of participants.
"'The truth is, it's the venue. The Strand versus The Municipal,' said Marcus Franklin, standing with the Michael Vick Forgiveness Rally. 'Most African-Americans have their shows at the Municipal Auditorium.' He held a sign by someone across the street, who was white, saying 'Why Strand Why?' sent a message that carried racial undertones.
"The woman holding that sign, Loni Williams, wondered,'Why would the beatiful Strand let someone like him through the doors to make money?' referring to Vick. 'We've never had anybody come in there that was controversial or a dog murderer.'
"'I hate the fact that it looks like a race thing, 'cause it's not about race,' she said. 'I really hate that part, the race thing, it's just awful.'"
KTAL Shreveport's Christian Henson also reported on the development:
"Michael Vick's comedy tour came to Shreveport's Strand Theatre but there was also a show outside, two groups staging two different protests.
"Emily Daye started the animal rights Facebook protest against Vick and said,'I couldn't believe my ears when I heard the Michael Vick was coming to The Strand. When I verified that it was true I felt like I had to do something so I started the page and the response has been overwhelming.'
"Vick (pleaded) guilty to dog fighting charges in 2007 and was sentenced to 23 months in prison.
"Dorian Ford, leader of the Michael Vick Forgiveness Rally said,'I do not uphold what he did at all, however, I do strongly stand for forgivness.'
"Ford says Vick has paid his debt to society and stopping Vick from performing would only take money away from Shreveport.
"'Cruelty to animals is still a huge problem, much bigger than probably most people understand it to be and if we keep worshiping celebrities that do wrong things, specifically cruelty to animals, then what does that say to our children?' said Daye.
"But Ford said, 'For me, for you to hate him for what you feel like he did to the dog, you feel like he showed cruelty and hate to the dog but you're doing the exact same thing to him. So the only way for you to resitute hate or to correct hate is through love and that's what we're doing. We're counteracting that hate with love.'"
The 34-year-old Vick is entering his 12th NFL season. He previously suited up for the Atlanta Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles and has amassed 27,346 all-purpose yards, 164 touchdowns and 85 interceptions in 128 career regular-season games through July 13, per ESPN stats.