Outside stadium, little in way of protests

Michael Vick's introduction to Lincoln Financial Field last night - a highly anticipated event pumped up by sports-talk radio and other media, black leaders, and animal-rights activists - was, in the end, more about the game than anything else.

Before the game started, local NAACP head J. Whyatt Mondesire and about a dozen supporters stood in front of the Linc and took questions from reporters. Mondesire earlier had announced that he and the Black Clergy of Philadelphia and other activists would hold a march outside the stadium to show their support for Vick, who they believe has been maligned by animal-rights activists spewing racist rhetoric.

"Nobody's heard him called the N-word," Mondesire told reporters. "But there was a lot of venom in those words."

And that, pretty much, was the protest: no signs or visible demonstrations and a few words to reporters.

Earlier, at Broad and Pattison, a small group of dog lovers held up signs protesting Vick, braving the honks and shouts of fans who supported the Eagles' new quarterback. One of their signs read: "My dog hates the Philadelphia Eagles."

Kathleen Liberi, a lifelong South Philadelphia resident and Eagles fan, was one of the protesters.

"I am heartbroken that my team and my city are the ones to sign Michael Vick," she said. "I'm not saying he doesn't deserve a second chance. It's just too soon."

Romy Nocerra, 46, of Center City, said, "Frankly, it's disgusting that this can be glossed over." Her sign read: "Ethics Over Athletics."

Inside the Linc, what mattered was football, and several Eagles fans were ready to embrace Vick, who spent 18 months in prison for bankrolling a dogfighting operation.

There were scattered boos when Vick ran onto the field for his first play, but the cheers were louder.

After that, each time Vick took the field, the fans stood to cheer and applaud.

They screamed even louder after he completed a pass, to Hank Baskett.

"He's part of our team now, and he demands our support," said Bobo Beck, 32, a special-education teacher in North Philadelphia.

T'ana Johnson, 24, who wore a Vick jersey, stood and screamed.

"I was kind of nervous to wear my Vick jersey," she said. "I thought somebody might run up at me with red paint."

Like many who wore Vick jerseys yesterday, Johnson said the player deserved a second chance.

"He's already served his time," she said.

Tyhee Marshall, 28, of Camden, attended his first Eagles game specifically to support Vick. He held up a handmade cardboard sign that showed a dog with sad eyes in Vick's No. 7 jersey. The sign read: "We forgive you."

"I feel pretty bad about the dogs," he said. "I hope he learned his lesson."

But not everyone in the stands was behind Vick.

Peter Wallace, 44, who lives outside Harrisburg, wore a shirt that showed a dog urinating on Vick's jersey.

"He shouldn't have been up here in Philadelphia at all," he said. "He should still be behind bars."

 


Contact staff writer Joelle Farrell at 610-627-0352 or jfarrell@phillynews.com.